Carbon monoxide poisoning is a risk for anyone who lives in an enclosed space and has to heat that space.
Many people don’t understand what carbon monoxide is, why it’s a danger, and what can be done to mitigate the risk to their families. We will answer those questions here.
What Is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide, also known by the chemical formula CO, is a gas that is produced due to the incomplete combustion of carbon. This happens when carbon based fuels, including coal, wood, charcoal, oil, propane, natural gas, and kerosene, are not completely burned. When you breathe, any carbon monoxide present in the air combines with the hemoglobin in your blood to form carboxyhemoglobin. Carboxyhemoglobin stops your blood from carrying the oxygen your body needs to your cells. When your cells are deprived of enough oxygen, you may experience these symptoms: headache, nausea, dizziness, lowered pulse shortness of breath, unconsciousness and even death.
Unfortunately, carbon monoxide can be present in your home without you knowing about it because it is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. Typically it’s a silent killer, although it is also very flammable. People are at most risk from carbon monoxide poisoning when they are asleep because they will not notice their symptoms and take action to protect themselves. Often they will go to the doctor for headaches and not realize that their symptoms are a result of carbon monoxide poisoning. Pets in the home will also get sick or vomit, and no one will realize why.
You are more at risk in the winter months because your home is not ventilated with air from the outdoors. In the United States about 170 people die every year from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning.
How Can You Lower Your Risk of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?
You must install a carbon monoxide detector. This device will alert you and your household if carbon monoxide in your home reaches dangerous levels. A loud alarm will sound, alerting or waking the household so you can evacuate and ventilate the area before any damage to your health occurs.
Who needs to install a carbon monoxide detector? If you burn wood, coal, kerosene, or wood pellets for heating or cooking, use propane or natural gas for heating or cook, or burn any carbon based fuels in a confined space you need to have one installed. The risk is not limited to furnaces. Backup generators, dryers, hot water heaters, and boilers, wood stoves, and fireplaces are also fueled with carbon based sources and can produce carbon monoxide.
Lake Michigan Mechanical can test your furnace or other heat sources for carbon monoxide. We will recommend quality carbon monoxide detectors to install. Some detectors run solely off batteries and others can be hardwired into your home’s electrical system. These are sometimes combined with smoke and heat detectors into one alarm. Detectors that run off electricity should also have a backup battery installed and replaced annually in case of power failure. Lake Michigan Mechanical installs wireless and wifi capable Nest Protect alarms that detect smoke and carbon monoxide and ensure your safety and the safety of your home. These alarms can alert you of problems even when you aren’t home via your phone, and they test themselves continuously and automatically.
Do not put off installing a carbon monoxide detector in your home. Detectors are affordable and easy to install, and the consequences of carbon monoxide poisoning are too tragic to even contemplate. Ignoring them is simply not worth the risk to you or your family.