Carbon monoxide (CO) is known as “the silent killer”. This colorless, odorless gas can build up in your home without your knowledge. It can make you sick – or worse – before you’re even aware it’s there.
November is Carbon Monoxide Awareness Month, and the National Carbon Monoxide Awareness Association (NCOAA) wants you to know that as stealthy and dangerous as CO is, there are precautions you can take to keep you and your family safe this heating season.
What Causes Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Winter?
Carbon monoxide is formed by the incomplete combustion of fuels. It is a colorless, odorless gas found in fumes produced whenever you burn fuel like gasoline, natural gas, oil, or even wood. It can build up indoors and poison people and animals who breathe it, as CO molecules displace the oxygen in their bodies.
Why Is Carbon Monoxide Poisoning More Common in Winter?
Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs more frequently in the fall and winter. This is because people are more likely to use gas furnaces and heaters during colder months, and heating appliances and fireplaces are common causes of CO poisoning. At the same time, houses are tightly sealed against the cold, so there’s no ventilation to help dilute the carbon monoxide as it builds.
What Appliances Can Leak Carbon Monoxide?
Heating systems are among the most common sources of carbon monoxide leaks, but anything that burns fuel can become problematic. Your clothes dryer and even your gas or wood stove can emit carbon monoxide. Some other carbon monoxide sources are:
- Space heaters
- Water heaters
- Power tools
- Lawn equipment
- Motor vehicles
- Tobacco smoke
How Do You Protect Your Home from Carbon Monoxide?
- Ensure your fuel-burning appliances are well-maintained, properly vented, and used only as directed.
- Never use an outdoor appliance indoors.
- Don’t use an oven to heat your home.
- Never run your car inside your garage unless the garage door is open.
- If you’re running your car while scraping snow and ice off the exterior, be sure the exhaust pipe isn’t blocked by snow.
- Install carbon monoxide detectors in your home and change the batteries regularly.
For installing a carbon monoxide detector, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and replace the detector after the suggested length of time, typically every 5-10 years. Additionally, have an evacuation plan. Make sure your family recognizes the sound of the alarm and has an evacuation plan to leave the house and call 911 if it goes off. In addition to having an escape plan, everyone in your home should be able to recognize the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Initial symptoms include mild headache and shortness of breath, followed by severe headache, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue.
Continued CO exposure can lead to irritability, impaired coordination, confusion, and loss of consciousness. It is very easy to dismiss the early symptoms, but that could be a deadly mistake. There are many similarities to symptoms of the flu, but if you don’t have a fever, body aches, or swollen glands, suspect CO poisoning and act accordingly. It’s better to be safe than sorry because heavy concentrations of CO can kill within minutes.
Tragar’s Companies Can Keep Your Family Safe and Warm
It’s important to know what appliances in your home are fuel-burning and to make sure they are maintained properly. The good news is that the experts at our parent company Tragar Home Services can check your HVAC systems and recommend any necessary repairs to keep the air in your home clean and safe.
Tragar Express provides discounted oil-on-demand delivery services with the ability to shop and place orders 24/7. We have more than 60 employees to help ensure speedy delivery and excellent customer service year-round, regardless of the weather. Contact us online or give us a call directly at (855) 426-3645 and let us know how we can help you.