Carbon Monoxide is produced through the burning of different types of fuels including oil, propane, natural gas typically in furnaces and heaters when discussing its use in homes. It is colorless and odorless which increases its deadliness because people rarely realize it is there until it is too late. Furnaces, stoves and water heaters are designed to vent CO gases outside however improper ventilation, cracks, leaks and blockages can disrupt the venting and raise interior CO to dangerous levels. High levels of CO in the home can lead to incapacitation and even death while some victims never even realize they were in danger.
Steps that homeowners can take to protect themselves from carbon monoxide poisoning include:
- Have any fuel burning appliances inspected annually. A good time for this to be done is in the fall before the start of the cold weather season
- Appliances to check include heaters, furnaces, gas stoves and ovens, clothes dryers, water heaters and generators.
- Any carbon monoxide producing appliance should be professionally inspected to ensure they are properly installed and vented to the exterior of the home. Any needed repairs should be completed by trained professionals.
- The flues and chimneys used by any fuel burning unit should be inspected for leaks, blockages and cracks to ensure these gases do not build up within the home. Only use fuels that the appliance is designed for.
- Never idle a vehicle in the garage and never use stoves or ovens as a form of heating within the home. When starting a car in the garage open the garage door prior to starting the engine and drive out as soon as possible.
- Purchase carbon monoxide detectors and install per manufacturers instructions. In Colorado installing carbon monoxide detectors prior to selling a home is required by law.
- If the carbon monoxide alarm sounds, know what actions to take. If there is anyone in the home that experiences any symptoms like nausea, fatigue, dizziness, blurred vision or confusion everyone in the home should leave and seek medical attention.
- If the carbon monoxide alarm sounds and none of the occupants are experiencing any symptoms all of the doors and windows should be opened immediately to vent the home and all fuel burning appliances turned off until they can be inspected to determine the source of the carbon monoxide.