Carbon monoxide (CO) is a naturally occurring gas referred to as the “silent killer” because it’s odorless, tasteless, and colorless and can cause serious health issues and even death. CO is responsible for killing 400 Americans each year and sending more than 20,000 people to the emergency room.
It’s important to ensure that your home is safe from carbon monoxide exposure to protect your family and pets. Here, the heating and cooling technicians at Ravinia Plumbing, Sewer, Heating & Electric discuss what carbon monoxide is, the dangers it presents, and how to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
How is Carbon Monoxide Produced?
CO is a byproduct of combustion, which occurs in gas or other fossil-fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, generators, stoves, water heaters, and your vehicle’s gas engine. When an appliance burns fossil fuels such as natural gas, wood, charcoal, and propane – it produces CO.
These appliances are manufactured to safely vent carbon monoxide out of your home to prevent exposure. However, malfunctions can occur that increase the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Recognize the symptoms of CO Poisoning
A carbon monoxide leak is extremely dangerous to anyone who comes in contact with the gas. When exposed to CO, the oxygen in your red blood cells is replaced by carbon monoxide, which can cause tissue damage and even death. Some of the symptoms to look out for include:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Pale skin
- Cherry red lips and ear tips
- Loss of consciousness
And because it’s odorless and colorless, you won’t even know you’re being exposed to it until you start feeling sick.
How to Prevent CO Poisoning
That’s why homeowners need to take safety precautions to prevent carbon monoxide exposure in the first place.
Here are some tips to prevent CO poisoning in your home:
Install carbon monoxide detectors
One of the easiest ways to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning is through the installation of carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home. In the state of Illinois, homeowners, landlords, and building owners are required to install a carbon monoxide detector within 15 feet of rooms used for sleeping, according to The Office Of The Illinois State Fire Marshal. The law applies to those homes and businesses which use fossil fuel to cook, heat, or produce hot water, or occupancies that are connected to an enclosed garage.
According to the Fire Marshal’s office:
- Install CO detectors near all rooms used for sleeping.
- Do not install a CO alarm near your kitchen or garage or in a room with a furnace.
- If your carbon monoxide alarm sounds, leave the house immediately and call 911 or your local fire department.
Check your CO alarms monthly to ensure they’re working properly and – if they’re battery operated – change the batteries every six months.
Have your furnace inspected
One of the biggest threats of CO exposure in Chicagoland homes is gas furnaces. CO is the byproduct of the combustion process that occurs in gas furnaces. CO is contained within your furnace’s heat exchanger, and when the unit is operating correctly, the gas is directed through the heater’s flue pipe and vented safely out of your house.
Heat exchangers can crack over time if they become overheated due to a lack of airflow, or through age.
Be sure to contact a professional HVAC company if your furnace is acting up so they can inspect it and make any necessary repairs. It’s also crucial to have your furnace tuned up once per year. During the inspection, a qualified technician will examine the unit to ensure it’s operating properly and that the heat exchanger isn’t cracked.
Keep vents clear
Make sure nothing is obstructing the vents for your fuel-burning appliances, including your furnace, fireplace, stove, dryer, etc. This is especially important after a major winter storm, which can clog the vents. You can ask your utility company about providing yearly inspections for all your gas appliances.
Contact Ravinia Plumbing, Sewer, Heating & Electric for all of Your Home’s HVAC Needs
The technicians at Ravinia Plumbing care about your family’s health and want to prevent anyone from being exposed to carbon monoxide. Contact us today for all of your heating repair, maintenance, and installation needs, as well as to install CO detectors around your home.