Carbon Monoxide

Every year, families lose loved ones to a silent killer. They weren't aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide.

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas that robs the body of oxygen needed to survive. Physical symptoms of CO poisoning include; headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, watery eyes, disorientation and convulsions. In extreme cases it can be fatal.

While natural gas is one of the safest energy sources around, carbon monoxide may be present if natural gas does not burn completely due to improperly adjusted burners or recalculation of flue products. The best way to protect yourself and your family from the threat of carbon monoxide is with an annual inspection of flues, chimneys and fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces and water heaters. Carbon monoxide detectors can provide additional peace of mind.

Detecting CO

Carbon Monoxide DetectorCO is an odorless and colorless gas, so it's not always easy to detect. Aside from the physical symptoms, there are also signs to look for in your home.

Backdraft from a fireplace, furnace or water heater are signs of trouble and can result in CO. If the flame on a natural gas appliance is yellow and creating soot, it's a sign that the fuel isn't burning completely. Other signs of danger include; high humidity, condensation on cold surfaces such as windows, soot from a fireplace or heating system or a lingering pungent smell.

Trouble can start when:

  • The flame on a natural gas appliance is yellow and causing carbon or soot
  • Appliances are not properly installed maintained or used
  • A chimney is plugged with debris - squirrel and bird nests are often the culprits
  • Vent pipes are rusted causing spaces, gaps, or leaks
  • Vehicles, lawn mowers or grills are operated in a closed garage
  • A wood burning fireplace uses too much oxygen, causing a backdraft from other appliance flues
  • The furnace air intake is blocked. If housed in a small room, make sure there are louvered doors
  • Auxiliary wood-burning heaters or fireplaces are used incorrectly
  • A gas range is used for space heating

Placement of Carbon Monoxide Detector

When placing CO detectors, consider the following:

  • At least one detector should be located in or near primary bedrooms. The alarm would wake you if you were sleeping.
  • Additional detectors are recommended when there are multiple furnaces or when bedrooms are in different areas of the home.
  • Place detectors at least five feet from any bathroom. Excessive humidity an aerosols can cause false alarms in some detectors.
  • Avoid placing detectors near open windows or doors. Weather conditions can also affect the detector's reliability.

If the CO Detector Alarm Sounds

Do Not Panic

  • Check to see if anyone is experiencing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • If anyone is in need of urgent medical attention, leave the premises immediately and call 911. Then call your gas utility or other qualified contractor to have your appliances checked.

If There is No Emergency

  • Open doors and windows to vent the building. Turn the thermostat to the lowest position. Turn off all unvented appliances (range, auxiliary heaters).
  • Check flues for obstructions.
  • Check for soot around the base of the water heater and furnace
  • Check for a vehicle operating in the garage.

Check the Surroundings

  • Is the detector properly located, away from kitchens, furnace areas and open windows?
  • Are there heavy smokers in the house?
  • Were cleaning agents or aerosols used recently near the detector?
  • What are the weather conditions? Extended rains and dense fog make it more difficult for the home to effectively vent low levels of CO.

If your alarm sounds and you are unable to determine the problem, have your equipment inspected by your gas utility, fuel supply company, or a heating contractor. There is a fee for this service. Explain that your detector is sounding, as well as any other symptoms or conditions that exist.