Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide what is it and why do I care about it?

Carbon monoxide is a tasteless, odorless, and colorless gas: a silent killer.  It is created by burning fossil fuels such as gasoline, propane or natural gas.  Symptoms are lightheadedness, sleepiness, respiratory irritation, and difficulty seeing.  When you experience these symptoms, you need to immediately get out of the building.  But what if you're asleep when you are exposed to carbon monoxide?  You can die.

This year, numerous deaths have occurred by running a generator inside the home after a loss of power.  Running a generator in this manner is never a good idea.  If you use a gas powered engine, you must run the engine outside, never inside the structure.  Here is a recent example.

Carbon monoxide can also be toxic from using natural gas or propane in a furnace with a cracked heat exchanger or a fireplace that is not vented properly.  When the gas (natural or propane) is burned, one of the emissions is carbon monoxide. 

Current building code requires a smoke detector in every bedroom, outside the sleeping area, and on every floor.  These detectors must be connected so that when one goes off, all of them go off.  Carbon monoxide detectors are also required in the home. I recommend one on every finished floor near the sleeping area.

Smoke detectors are typically good for ten years.  Carbon monoxide detectors are typically good for seven years.  If you look at the back of the detector, there should be an expiration date.  Once this date has passed, I have seen detectors falsely report an issue or randomly go off, typically in the middle of the night.  With a carbon monoxide detector, if it goes off, leave the building and call the fire department.  If you feel this is a false alarm, get everyone out of the building and open some windows.  Most detectors can be easily removed from the ceiling or wall.  Once removed, take the detector outside.  If it still alarms while outside, the detector is no longer working properly.  Note:  Only perform this step if you are confident the detector is bad.  An example would be the detector goes off when the windows are open in the summer.

Please protect yourself and your family from this invisible health hazard.  Buy carbon monoxide detectors and hook them up in your house.  Check your furnaces and fireplaces for any issues.

And remember the difference between a good night out and signs of trouble...