How To Keep Your Family Safe From An Invisible Killer

carbon monoxide safetyUPDATED 11/1/2017 Carbon monoxide (CO) is an invisible danger that lurks in every home! You can’t see, smell, or hear it. You can stop it, though. Every year, more than 400 people die from CO poisoning. The 12 steps you can take to keep your family safe from this invisible killer!

What causes carbon monoxide poisoning?

Most people think of CO issues as a winter problem. While perhaps more common then, the deadly gas knows no boundaries and impacts families year round!

Fireplace and gas and oil-burning furnaces, used commonly in Maryland homes during the winter, cause CO poisoning. Your water heater, dryer, and gas range oven pose a risk too.

Proper venting of these appliances protects your family, removing the dangerous gas from your home. Over time, leaks, cracks, or blockages may form causing carbon monoxide to build up inside your home. These problems happen in the summer and winter. That’s why it’s important to maintain these systems and get regular inspections.

Human error also causes carbon monoxide poisoning, especially with cars, fireplaces, and generators.

Never run a generator in your home or garage. They need proper ventilation.

fireplace safetyIf you use a fireplace, open the damper before you light the fire. The Consumer Product Safety Commission points out that you should keep that damper open until the ashes are cool. That may be the next morning! The damper prevents the buildup of poisonous gases in your home.

Finally, warm up your car in your garage. According to the CDC, this is dangerous even if you open the garage door.

If you have a furnace that uses any combustible fuel – oil, natural gas, wood, or biofuel – Minnick’s believes you need a carbon monoxide monitor in your home.

Maryland carbon monoxide inspection

If you have a carbon monoxide detector in your home, that’s great! However, you still need a professional inspection.

Our equipment is more sensitive and detects lower levels of carbon monoxide. Plus, our trained HVAC technicians look for potential problems that could cause CO issues in the future.

Minnick’s trained technicians offer Maryland carbon monoxide inspections. They check the safety of your equipment during an annual furnace inspection. They also test for carbon monoxide.

Minnick’s also includes carbon monoxide testing in our energy audit. We test your home’s performance, safety, and evaluate your indoor air quality.

There’s no doubt standard household carbon monoxide detectors save lives. They usually go off when CO levels reach 70 parts per million (ppm) for over an hour.

Carbon monoxide at lower levels is still dangerous, especially over a prolonged period. While your CO detector may pick up on this, Minnick’s equipment detects lower levels of carbon monoxide more quickly.

That’s why an annual furnace inspection is essential to the safety of your family.

Why is carbon monoxide dangerous?

Carbon monoxide attaches to the hemoglobin in our red blood cells, which prevents necessary oxygen from attaching. So if we breathe in too much carbon monoxide, we prevent our body from receiving fresh oxygen.

While there are symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, they often go overlooked or thought to be something else. Symptoms mimic the flu. They include a headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion.

The physical damage of CO exposure is accumulating. Long-term exposure to low-level CO causes long-term damage to our tissues. Repeated low-level CO exposure can lead to serious illness and cause birth defects in unborn children.

Other health risks of CO exposure include damage to the brain, heart, and endocrine systems. CO exposure is linked to an increased risk of low birth rate in pregnancy, strokes, respiratory issues, and oxidative stress. That’s a known risk factor for many disorders such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

In more severe cases of carbon monoxide poisoning, you’ll pass out and possibly die.

If you’re sleeping, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), points out you can die before you even have symptoms.

Carbon monoxide: invisible killer

Carbon monoxide is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in America, according to the CDC. There are countless stories of loss due to carbon monoxide. A preventable death.

Eight Maryland family members died while sleeping from carbon monoxide, likely created by a power generator.

There’s Jeffrey Lee Williams, too. He and his mother were staying in a hotel room. Mom was unconscious in the bathroom. Jeffrey didn’t make it. If the room had a functioning CO detector, Jeffrey would likely still be here today.

Preventing carbon monoxide poisoning

Routine maintenance on your HVAC system prevents carbon monoxide poisoning. Detectors offer protection all the time.

They’re inexpensive, roughly $20, and protect against deadly levels of CO. It’s as important as a smoke detector.

Place an alarm on every level of the house, and in sleeping areas. Put the alarm at least 15 feet away from fuel-burning appliances. Keep them away from windows or doors. Ideally, place them 5 feet above the ground. Many CO detectors plug into an electrical outlet.

There are many alarm types, and it’s important you choose the one that offers maximum protection. How to choose a carbon monoxide detector.

Carbon monoxide detectors and alarms have a test function. Its purpose is to make sure the product works. Test it often. Also, use a soft cloth or brush to remove dust.

Replace batteries frequently, if you purchase a carbon monoxide detector that’s powered by them.  Some alarms beep, like a smoke detector, to notify you that it’s time to change the batteries.

Carbon monoxide detectors don’t last forever. They expire.

In 2009, Underwriters Laboratories told manufacturers to include an end-of-life warning. This alerts homeowners that it’s time to replace their carbon monoxide detector. Some manufacturers have that technology built-in to even older models.

Most detectors last between 5-10 years. Older models are more likely to last 5-7 years, and newer technology is good for 10 years.

While the end-of-life alarm is helpful, Kidde, recommends replacing the alarm before you reach that point.

Smart Maintenance

Minnick’s smart technology, Smart Maintenance, also offers another way to keep your family safe. The technicians apply custom sensors to your HVAC system, that detect up to 80-percent of HVAC issues.

While not specifically used as a tool to detect carbon monoxide, the sensors prevent HVAC issues. So, Smart Maintenance alerts you to potentially dangerous HVAC issues, that could cause carbon monoxide before they happen. The technology predicts and prevents problems, and protects your comfort.

The sensors remotely check your system every month! That’s peace-of-mind monitoring all year round!

It’s an extra layer of protection! Plus, you’ll only need an annual inspection of your heating and cooling equipment, rather than one in the fall and one in the spring!

Ways to protect your family
  1. Install CO detectors on each floor of your home and in bedrooms.
  2. Check the batteries every time you check your smoke detector batteries — at least twice a year.
  3. Replace the detector every 5-10 years.
  4. Open the fireplace damper before you light a fire, and keep the damper open until the ashes are cool.
  5. Have your HVAC system and water heater inspected and serviced by a qualified Maryland heating and cooling company like Minnick’s.
  6. Don’t run a generator in your home or garage.
  7. Don’t run your car, even if the garage door is open, inside your garage.
  8. Always use gas appliances according to manufacturer recommendations. That means you should not use them as a heat source in the winter.
  9. Never operate unvented fuel-burning appliances in any room where people are sleeping.
  10. Seal all air leaks between the garage and the house. These leaks could potentially allow carbon monoxide inside.
  11. Clear all gas dryer, furnace, stove and fireplace vents during and after snowstorms.
  12. Get Smart Maintenance so you’re alerted to problems with your HVAC system.

If the alarm is ever activated, open the windows to ventilate the house. Call 911, and always evacuate, even if no one is experiencing symptoms.

Trust the experts in Whole-Home Comfort to keep your family safe.