Often referred to as “the silent killer”, carbon monoxide is responsible for approximately 400 deaths and 20,000 emergency room visits across the U.S. each year. If your Gilbert, Arizona home has an attached garage or if you use any fuel-burning appliances, the risk of carbon monoxide exposure exists. To keep both you and everyone else in your household safe from carbon monoxide poisoning, it’s important to have a reliable way to detect this gas. Here is everything that you should know about residential carbon monoxide detection.
Why Is Carbon Monoxide So Dangerous?
Carbon monoxide is a combustion gas that’s produced whenever fuel is incompletely burned. Slightly lighter than air, carbon monoxide (CO) is completely odorless and colorless. In fact, this is actually why it is known as a silent killer. Most people only become aware of carbon monoxide exposure after they’ve begun exhibiting serious symptoms.
Carbon monoxide exposure occurs when fuel-burning appliances are not properly vented, when vents or flues are blocked, or when CO from attached garages makes its way into living environments. Many people mistakenly expose themselves to CO by using appliances indoors that aren’t meant for inside use and that aren’t vented at all.
For instance, if your power goes out, you wouldn’t want to use an outdoor grill to cook food inside of your home even if it’s snowing and freezing cold outside. Although this might seem like a handy way to feed everyone in the family a hot, hearty meal, the CO released by your unvented appliances will make everyone sick. It may even prove fatal.
It’s important to note that CO is just as harmful to animals as it is to humans. Thus, when carbon monoxide exposure occurs, it can have a devastating impact on indoor cats, dogs, birds, and other pets too.
Common Household Appliances That Produce Carbon Monoxide
As more homeowners make the move to electrically powered appliances, the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning declines. However, there are still a number of common household appliances that produce carbon monoxide. In addition to the vehicle that you regularly park in your garage, you might have a:
- Gas-fired furnace
- Gas dryer
- Fuel-burning portable space heater
- Wood-burning stove
- Gas-powered water heater
Although improper venting of fuel-burning appliances is frequently the cause of carbon monoxide exposure, this deadly gas can also enter the home when fuel-burning appliances malfunction. This is one of the top reasons why all appliances that produce carbon monoxide should be diligently maintained and regularly inspected by professionals.
Among the different fuel types that produce CO due to incomplete combustion are:
- Natural gas
Having appliances that use any of these fuels professionally installed is always better than installing them yourself. Professionals can make sure that these units are correctly vented and that your venting system is well-maintained.
What Are the Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Exposure?
In moderate amounts, carbon monoxide causes symptoms that can be easily mistaken for other problems. For instance, if there is a minor carbon monoxide leak in your home that is caused by poor venting or a blocked vent, residents may complain of:
- Muscle weakness
- Chest pain
When exposure to CO is prolonged, these symptoms can advance to vomiting, disorientation, blurred vision, and loss of consciousness. Sadly, if carbon monoxide exposure occurs while people are sleeping or heavily intoxicated, they may die before exhibiting any symptoms at all.
Proactive Versus Reactive Approaches to Detecting and Preventing CO Exposure
Carbon monoxide detection and prevention fall into two main categories: proactive and reactive. Reactive carbon monoxide detection is noticing developing symptoms and responding by evacuating the home or troubleshooting either the vent or fuel-burning appliance that’s responsible. Proactive carbon monoxide detection limits the greatest amount of risk. Proactive detection often catches CO leaks before major health issues arise.
The two most common methods of proactive detection include installing CO detectors and scheduling regular indoor air quality assessments. There are also locations in which utility companies and fire departments will perform regular CO inspections for homeowners at no cost. These tests are typically performed with portable toxic gas monitors.
When home heating systems are suspected of leaking carbon monoxide, HVAC companies sometimes use combustion analyzers to determine the magnitude of the problem. These are electronic devices that measure vented gases from fuel-burning appliances. They can determine the ratio of indoor CO to oxygen and verify whether or not the level of CO is unsafe.
One large part of being proactive in preventing carbon monoxide exposure is keeping fuel-burning appliances well-maintained. Each of these appliances should be inspected and tuned up annually or according to the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule. Moreover, the venting systems for these appliances should be inspected and cleaned on a regular schedule as well. All fuel-burning appliances should also be promptly replaced at the end of their expected lifespans.
Installing Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Although having indoor air quality assessments and free CO inspections performed is a good way to ensure that your living environment is safe, habitable, and unlikely to cause serious resident harm, it is not possible to have these assessments performed all of the time. The only sure way to consistently keep everyone in your home protected from carbon monoxide exposure is by having CO alarms installed. Not surprisingly, the installation of CO alarms is a requirement for landlords and property owners in many areas. These units reliably provide early detection of carbon monoxide and notify building residents by issuing loud, audible alerts right away.
However, in a typical home, a single carbon monoxide detector isn’t sufficient on its own. There should be one of these devices on every level of the building, one near the intersection of attached garages and living spaces, and one by each bedroom. Moreover, these units should be regularly tested and replaced according to their manufacturer’s instructions.
Important Things to Know When Installing Carbon Monoxide Detectors in Your Home
Vented, fuel-burning appliances can and do emit small amounts of carbon monoxide in homes. As such, carbon monoxide detectors should never be installed too near these appliances. If they are, they will likely signal their alerts all of the time. Most manufacturers of CO detectors have a stated radius that their products should be installed beyond. For instance, the CO detectors that you choose for your home should probably be installed at least 20 feet away from all fuel-burning appliances.
How Often Should Carbon Monoxide Detectors Be Tested and Replaced?
Carbon monoxide detectors and combination fire alarm and carbon monoxide detectors should be replaced once every seven to 10 years. These units should be checked and tested as per their manufacturer’s instructions once each month. All CO detectors are designed to emit a special alert when their batteries run low. If any of your CO detectors issues an alert once every 30 to 45 seconds, this means that its batteries should be replaced.
For more than 20 years, A/C Doctors has been a trusted provider of AC and heater installation, maintenance, and repair services to residents of Gilbert, Arizona and the surrounding areas. We also offer ductless mini-splits, heat pumps, and advanced indoor air quality solutions. Give us a call today.