Is your family at risk of Carbon Monoxide poisoning? If you’ve never given it much thought, the answer could very well be yes.
Carbon Monoxide, or CO, is a colorless, odorless gas that is often formed when fuels and other organic substances are burned or combusted. More CO is produced if there is not enough oxygen present for efficient burning, which can often happen in enclosed spaces. Exposure to CO is dangerous for humans, illness animals, and other organisms because it interferes with oxygen intake.
To safeguard your home against dangerous concentrations of CO, you need to know where it’s most likely to occur and take the proper precautionary measures.
Your garage is one of the most common places you’ll find higher concentrations of carbon monoxide. Because cars burn gasoline, CO is produced. Over time, your garage may accumulate CO, especially if you ever run your car with the garage door closed. Some ways to prevent CO buildup in your garage include:
- Never run your car with the garage door closed.
- Allow your garage to ventilate regularly by opening the garage door or other doors (but not into the house), or by installing an efficient ventilation system.
- Have your car serviced regularly and checked for CO production. If your exhaust system has a leak, CO can make its way into the car and pose a danger to those inside.
If your chimney isn’t properly allowing smoke and CO to exit, your home could be at risk. Make sure your chimney is clear from blockages, and that the flue is functional and open during use. Things that may indicate your fireplace is a CO source include:
- The absence of an upward draft in the chimney
- Damaged or discolored bricks at the top of the chimney
- Fallen soot in the fireplace
- Water leakage from the base of the flue pipe
- Signs of rust on the flue pipe (another sign of water leakage)
Gas stoves, wood-burning stoves, and charcoal grills are all potential CO emitters. The best way to prevent carbon monoxide from building up in the kitchen is to properly maintain and clean your appliances, and to only cook on charcoal grills outdoors. Your combustion appliances should have a blue flame. If the flame is yellow or orange, the appliance should be serviced immediately.
Your heating system should also be maintained and checked regularly by a qualified heating contractor for CO output. Potentially dangerous situations can arise when there is insufficent air for combustion, which often happens in enclosed spaces. High-efficiency furnaces are equipped with PVC pipe that runs from the outside to the combustion chamber, which allows furnaces to be safely installed in closets and other enclosed spaces.
For standard furnaces and gas or kerosene space heaters, try to keep the surrounding area clear from any flammable objects, and allow for proper ventilation when in use.
Other Gas or Wood Burning Appliances
Other appliances you should maintain yearly to prevent or minimize carbon monoxide production are boilers, water heaters, clothes dryers, lawn mowers, power generators, camp stoves, some gas powered tools, and any motor vehicle, including motorcycles and RVs.
Proper appliance maintenance keeps your home and the people and animals in it safe from carbon monoxide poisoning. Know the likely sources of CO, and you’ll catch any problems before they can become dangerous risks.