The Invisible Killer: Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide, also called CO, is referred to as “the invisible killer” because it is impossible to see or smell this poisonous gas if it infests your home. Undetected exposure can be harmful, or even fatal. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) lists CO poisoning as responsible for more than 400 “unintentional, non-fire related” deaths in the US each year.

CO is produced when a fossil fuel is burned. A number of household products can produce potentially deadly CO levels if they are improperly vented or incorrectly used, including furnaces, water heaters, stoves, fireplaces, portable generators and charcoal grills.

Signs and Symptoms of CO Poisoning

Even though you can’t see or smell CO in your home, you can still be alert for the signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. In the initial stages, they feel like the flu, but the affected person will not experience a fever.

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue

High levels of exposure to carbon monoxide result in a progression of symptoms. Members of an affected household may experience one or more of the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Mental confusion
  • Loss of muscle coordination
  • Unconsciousness

Continued exposure to CO can be fatal if the occupants of the home are not rescued in time.

What To Do if You Suspect Co Poisoning

If you suspect that you or a family member is experiencing the effects of CO poisoning, the most important thing is to get to fresh air immediately. Leave the house right away. Call for help once you get outside or from a neighbor’s home. Do not try to call for help from inside your own home; you may lose consciousness or even die from the effects of CO poisoning if you stay in the house.

Call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number and tell the operator you suspect CO poisoning. Request help from the Fire Department to determine when it is safe to go back inside your home.

What You Can Do to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

There are several steps you can take to lower the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning to you and your family.

  • Make sure that all appliances in your home are installed according to the manufacturer’s specifications and local codes.
  • The best way to ensure they are properly installed is to have a professional look after this important function.
  • Read the manual that comes with new appliances before operating them and follow these directions carefully. They will direct you in the safe way to operate way to operate your new appliance.
  • Do not operate portable generators indoors. Only plug them in well away from open doors and windows, which can allow CO to enter your home.
  • Be alert for issues that may indicate that your appliances are not working correctly, such as burning, strange odors, decreased hot water supply, a furnace that runs constantly or does not heat the entire house or increased moisture inside of windows.
  • Perform a visual inspection on your vents and chimney for any visible cracks, rust, strains or improper connections. If you see anything that is cause for concern, contact an HVAC service contractor.
  • Have your heating system, including your vents, inspected and serviced each year by a trained service technician.

AirMaxx is your award-winning HVAC contractor in the San Diego area. Call us today to schedule your annual inspection on your heating and cooling system or for service on any of your equipment.

Carbon Monoxide Myths And Facts

One of the most dangerous substances your family can be exposed to is carbon monoxide poisoning. The only way to be prepared is to be knowledgeable about the substance. The first thing to do is to acquaint yourself to the facts and to know the myths, so they don’t confuse you.

Carbon Monoxide Myths
• You’ll be able to smell carbon monoxide when it is at dangerous levels.
• If nothing is burning in the home, there will be no carbon monoxide.
• Install and maintain carbon monoxide alarms just like your smoke alarms.
• If your alarm is constantly going off, these are probably false alarms that you shouldn’t worry about.
• Any sound coming from my carbon monoxide alarm indicates danger and we should evacuate the premises.
• We’ll know if we’re awake when the carbon monoxide levels are dangerously high.

Carbon Monoxide Facts
• It is a tasteless, odorless and colorless gas
• Carbon Monoxide is always in the air, usually at acceptable levels, but the levels can become unacceptable for many reasons.
• Carbon Monoxide Alarms can be installed at floor height or on the ceiling and they should be maintained similarly to smoke alarms.
• Always assume your carbon monoxide alarm is accurate. Spikes in carbon monoxide levels can dissipate quickly causing you to assume it was false alarm after the authorities arrive.
• Carbon Monoxide alarms have to settings: “Alert”, meaning investigate the issue and “Warning”, meaning leave your home immediately.
• Even if you’re awake when the carbon monoxide reaches dangerous levels, you may not be able to tell.

You cannot smell, taste or see carbon monoxide gas; the only symptoms are innocuous flu-like symptoms which most people would simply explain away. Since carbon monoxide is a gas that we are always exposed to at varying levels, it makes it even more difficult to detect. We only have to be concerned when those levels exceed certain limits and that is why a carbon monoxide detector is needed in every home. They can be installed anywhere in the home, on the ceiling or near the floor. The only thing mandatory is that they are maintained, vacuumed and tested monthly, batteries changed twice a year and alarms replaced every 8-10 years. Carbon monoxide alarms are set to sound when the levels have grown over time. This is an indicator that something is very wrong and the occupants in the home should react quickly. To get a better understanding of how your alarms work or to get help with your other HVAC needs, call us, we’re the helpful HVAC experts.