You’ve probably been told about carbon monoxide and how bad it is for you. You’ve probably heard stories or seen in the news where people have died after being exposed to carbon monoxide or suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning. But you may not really know what it is and what the dangers are.
Carbon monoxide is very serious, and you are definitely going to want to learn what it is, why it’s harmful and how to prevent and detect it in your home.
What is Carbon Monoxide?
Let’s start with learning what carbon monoxide really is. Carbon monoxide, also known as CO (because it is comprised of carbon and oxygen) is an odorless, colorless gas. If you’re exposed to large quantities or for a long period of time, it can lead to death. In fact, carbon monoxide contributes to over 400 deaths per year. Additionally, carbon monoxide leads to over 20,000 emergency room visits and 4,000 hospitalizations each year.
While some believe that certain people are more at risk than others, this isn’t the case. Anyone can fall victim to carbon monoxide. However, infants, the elderly and those with heart disease, anemia or breathing issues are more likely to get sick after being exposed to carbon monoxide.
Why is Carbon Monoxide So Dangerous?
Think back to the definition of what carbon monoxide is. The two most important words are odorless and colorless. The reason carbon monoxide is such a threat is because you can be exposed to it without even knowing.
Carbon monoxide is extremely dangerous to our bodies because it combines with our red blood cells. It will then move into your lungs, which keeps your body from getting the oxygen it needs.
Another danger is that carbon monoxide mimics symptoms similar to those of a common cold or flu, such as:
- shortness of breath
These symptoms are common for most minor illnesses and can resemble just feeling run-down or under the weather. Because they are so common, many people may write them off as something as simple as a cold or flu rather than wondering if it is carbon monoxide poisoning. Therefore, the carbon monoxide has time to creep into your body and cause serious issues like heart irregularities, seizures, unconsciousness or even death.
What Causes Carbon Monoxide in the Home?
If you’re going to keep an eye out for carbon monoxide in your home, you need to know what can cause its presence. Carbon monoxide is released when carbon fuel fails to burn completely, which is known as incomplete combustion.
The most common sources of carbon monoxide are:
- wood-burning stoves
- house fires
- vehicle exhaust fumes
- gas or propane stoves/grills
- charcoal grills/hibachi grills
- unvented propane/kerosene/gas space heaters
- gas-powered generators
- gas clothes dryers
If these types of fuels and machines are used in a well-ventilated area, there isn’t much of a threat. The threat arises when they are used in an enclosed space, such as a garage, kitchen or basement.
Have you ever been told never to let your car run in the garage if the garage doors are closed? The reason for this is carbon monoxide. If the car runs continuously with all the doors closed, the carbon monoxide it produces can quickly build to dangerous levels.
How Do I Detect and Prevent Carbon Monoxide?
Because of the dangers of carbon monoxide and the fact that it can’t be detected by the human senses, the most effective way to prevent the release of carbon monoxide in your home is to install a carbon monoxide alarm. The recommendation is to have several installed throughout the home, such as near each bedroom and by the garage. If you have more than one story to your home, you should definitely have one installed on each level.
Additionally, there are some precautions you can check into and begin following to help keep your home safe from carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Make sure gas appliances are properly vented.
- Have any gas or coal-burning appliances serviced every year by a technician.
- Never use a generator inside an enclosed space.
- If you have a chimney, have it serviced and cleaned every year.
- Open the fireplace damper before lighting a fire and after it has been extinguished.
- Never use a gas oven as a heater in your home.
- Never leave a car running in a closed garage. Even in an open garage, there is a possibility of carbon monoxide accumulation. The best option to ensure you don’t become exposed to carbon monoxide is the remove the car from the garage if it is going to run for a few minutes.
- Familiarize yourself with the dangers, symptoms and causes of carbon monoxide and carbon monoxide poisoning.
All of these tips can help prevent carbon monoxide in your home. But even when precautions are taken, a carbon monoxide leak can occur. In these cases, your carbon monoxide alarm should alert you. This will be the fastest way to detect it.
Benefits of a Carbon Monoxide Detector
If you’re still on the fence about having a carbon monoxide detector installed in your home, consider these benefits:
- A carbon monoxide alarm works similar to a fire alarm. The detector will set off a loud alarm, which can definitely be heard even if you’re asleep. It will alert you if carbon monoxide levels in the home begin to rise.
- It is a quick indicator. The alarm will sound before the carbon monoxide has the chance to cause serious symptoms.
- You don’t have to worry about false alarms. The alarms are built to be flexible with changing temperatures and humidity, which lowers the chance of a false alarm due to the change of atmosphere.
- There is the option of a central alarm, which will notify you even if you’re away from home.
Firefighters recommend a smoke AND carbon monoxide monitor be placed in every room for maximum safety.
What Do I Do if the Carbon Monoxide Alarm Goes Off?
If your alarm goes off, it is natural to panic and worry about what’s going on, as well as the safety of you and your family. But you have to remember to stay calm. You should also familiarize yourself with these tips on what to do if the alarm goes off.
- Do NOT assume it is a false alarm. There is always a slight chance it is, but do NOT risk it.
- Do NOT search for the source of the gas. This will put you at risk of experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Get out of the home. The best way to stay safe is to get out as quickly as possible. Do not reenter until the alarms stops or emergency responders deem it safe.
- Call 911 or the fire department. You’ll need to report the possible carbon monoxide release.
- Check out everyone’s health. Check out each member of the family. Look for any of the above-mentioned symptoms or for any unusual behaviors. Report any symptoms to first responders to be evaluated.
If you do have to evacuate your home due to carbon monoxide, the fresh air can help. You will still need to check for symptoms, but make sure you’re breathing in some fresh air as well.
Choose AHC Alarms for Your Carbon Monoxide Detection Needs
At AHC Alarms, we offer a carbon monoxide and smoke detector combo alarm system. Since we are an ADT authorized dealer, we are able to offer the convenience of 24/7 monitoring for maximum safety from smoke and carbon monoxide.
We are also able to offer professional installation services for your devices. At AHC Alarms, we care about you and your family, and we want to help keep you safe.