Winter Carbon Monoxide Safety Reminders

Smoke detector

Most of us spend a lot of time in our homes during the long winter months, relying on our home heating equipment to keep us safe and protected from the frigid Hudson Valley cold.

But we shouldn’t take that safety for granted: when we spend all those hours indoors, we are also exposing ourselves to greater risk from carbon monoxide (CO) leaks.

Carbon monoxide poisoning – a dangerous and potentially deadly hazard – can happen where there are CO leaks in an enclosed space. Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas emitted during the combustion of any fuel, and it usually accumulates due to poor ventilation or equipment malfunction. A blocked vent or flue, a damaged or poorly maintained heating system, or overuse of an unvented heating appliance can all cause a dangerous CO build-up in your home.

How serious is CO poisoning? Very – although how serious the problem can get depends on the level of exposure to the gas. Limited exposure can cause flu-like symptoms (headaches, nausea, and fatigue); moderate exposure can cause severe headaches, drowsiness, and disorientation; high exposure can lead to unconsciousness, cardiac arrest, and potentially death.

Exposure to carbon monoxide can be especially dangerous for young children, in whom the spread of CO poisoning is more rapid.

What should I do if I notice CO poisoning symptoms?

If you experience any of the carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms described above, take the following steps immediately:

How do I avoid carbon monoxide poisoning in my home?

Carbon monoxide poisoning is preventable with some sensible preparation and awareness. Here are six keys to preventing CO dangers in your home:

  1. Get your heating equipment serviced every year. Preventative maintenance will help technicians to spot issues before they pose risks to your family.
  2. Install a CO detector on every floor of your home. Replace batteries once a year and replace the detector itself every five years.
  3. Keep outdoor exhaust vents clear. Blocked vents can cause a dangerous buildup inside your home. Be sure to clear exhaust vents, flues, and other lines after all storms; use a broom rather than a shovel to prevent damage to your equipment.
  4. Keep an eye on your pets. If your pet seems sick or unusually slow to awaken, take him or her outside, check your CO detectors, and open windows.
  5. Never start a vehicle indoors. Start your car with the garage door open, and never run it for more than a few minutes.
  6. Never use outdoor appliances inside your home. Do not operate portable generators, outdoor grills, or any other equipment meant for outdoor use inside your home.

Stay safe this winter! Contact us if you have any questions about safety and your heating equipment, or to schedule professional heating maintenance or an inspection for your Hudson Valley-area home.