Most people know that carbon monoxide can be dangerous. But there’s still a lot of uncertainty about what carbon monoxide is, when you may be at risk, and what you can do to prevent that risk.
Unfortunately, we see multiple news stories every year about Edmond and Oklahoma City residents who have passed away due to carbon monoxide poisoning. There are ways to prevent this!
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that blends in with normal air. It’s difficult to detect, which makes it especially dangerous. Carbon monoxide is an inevitable byproduct of burning fossil fuels. Here’s what you need to know to keep your family safe.
Where does it come from?
Most of us in Oklahoma have a natural gas or propane utility service, which means that there’s a level of risk already present in your home or business. But don’t worry—thanks to ventilation systems, this gas is typically safely expelled from your environment.
However, if the ventilation isn’t installed correctly or if there are leaks, that can cause carbon monoxide to enter your living space.
In addition to your furnace, fireplace, stove, oven, and water heater (all of which have ventilation systems) there are other commonly used items that may create carbon monoxide but don’t have ventilation systems.
- Grills (propane or charcoal): Of course, you wouldn’t grill indoors, but even a mostly enclosed space can create problems!
- Vehicles: A parked car running in a closed garage can be extremely deadly.
- Space heaters: Both gas and propane powered heaters will produce carbon monoxide that can accumulate at harmful levels without ventilation.
- Mowers and lawn equipment: If it uses gas, don’t turn it on indoors or in a closed garage.
- Portable generator: These aren’t for indoor use, period. That can be deadly. When we install standby generators, we ensure they’re a safe distance from any windows, because the risk for carbon monoxide entering the home is high.
What are symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?
Carbon monoxide stifles oxygen in the bloodstream, essentially slowly smothering the victim. That leads to fatigue, nausea, dizziness, an inability to think clearly, and difficulty breathing. Eventually loss of consciousness and, in extreme cases, death can occur.
If you find that people in your home or business are suddenly becoming ill with any of these symptoms, your first step is to get out into fresh air. Then contact your utility company or a service and repair company to investigate the source.
What can you do?
The two main things you can do to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning are installing carbon monoxide detectors and having your system maintained regularly.
Carbon monoxide detectors are inexpensive and should be installed anywhere carbon monoxide is being produced. Common locations include utility closets and rooms, near attic furnaces, and in the kitchen near your hood vent. Some types can be plugged into an open outlet. But many of these detectors are battery-powered, so be sure to check them regularly.
Trained technicians can locate signs of deterioration and perform diagnostic tests to check for carbon monoxide levels near the burners for your furnace. Carbon monoxide detectors reduce risk, but they aren’t foolproof! The best way to determine how safely your furnace is operating is to have a professional perform a combustion analysis of your furnace.
We take the safety of our customers very seriously. If you’d like to have a professional install plugs or run power for carbon monoxide detectors and alarms, we can help.
And if you don’t have a trusted HVAC company you can call out for routine HVAC maintenance, we’d be happy to talk with you about how we do things.