They call carbon dioxide (CO) the silent killer. People can’t see or smell it in the air, yet even at low doses is dangerous and potentially fatal. Symptoms of CO poisoning include migraines, nausea and confusion. It’s important to recognize carbon monoxide hazards in your home to stay safe.

CO is created in a combustion reaction where there is insufficient oxygen. Instead of producing carbon dioxide molecules (with two oxygen atoms), it produces CO (with a single oxygen atom).

Common Carbon Monoxide Hazards

Since even a small amount of CO is dangerous, essentially any appliance that burns fuel (gas, coal etc.) has the ability to produce CO including:

  • generators
  • fuel-burning power tools
  • cars
  • wood stoves
  • barbecue grills
  • heaters
  • fireplaces

In order to minimize CO production, only use these appliances in highly ventilated areas, outside if possible. Even if CO is produced, as long as you are in an open space it won’t accumulate. Secondly, have all of these appliances professionally inspected annually, it’ll help you find any functional problems before they get too dangerous.

How to Protect Yourself From CO

Even if you only use your fuel-burning appliances in good conditions, it’s still possible to be in danger from CO. Leaks can occur into your home from the chimney or even your neighbors home depending on your home’s layout. In these cases you need to protect yourself with CO alarms.

CO alarms are inexpensive and can often just be plugged into the wall. They constantly monitor the CO content in the surrounding air and will sound an alarm if they increase to potentially dangerous levels. You should place at least one per level of your home and test them regularly.

If your alarm sounds, immediately leave your home and find a place with fresh air. Call the fire department who will go in and see if there is an issue that needs to be fixed. A false alarm is better than the alternative.

If you need professional help to protect your Northeast Ohio home from CO, contact Stack Heating & Cooling.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Cleveland, Ohio about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).  For more information about carbon monoxide hazards and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock