Carbon Monoxide and Your Home
Carbon monoxide (CO) is dangerous so how can you protect your family from CO? The first step is to prevent carbon monoxide from entering your home. The next step is to install at least one CO detector in your home.
What is Carbon Monoxide? CO is a colorless and odorless gas that you cannot see, taste or smell. CO is harmful, even at low levels, because it will rapidly accumulate in the blood, depleting the ability of blood to carry oxygen.
Where does it come from? CO is a byproduct of the combustion or burning of fossil fuels which include home heating oil and natural gas and wood. Most fuel-burning equipment produce little CO, and the byproducts of combustion are usually safely vented and disposed of. However, improper combustion and blocked venting can lead to CO buildup. Idling vehicles or gas mowers in connected garages can be dangerous if fumes enter the home through doorways, etc.
Steps to eliminate the possibility of CO buildup:
- have your fuel-burning appliances checked and cleaned annually by a qualified technician
- have your chimneys and vents inspected annually for cracks and blockages (such as bird’s nests)
- never use propane or natural gas stove tops or ovens to heat your home
- never start or run vehicles in closed garages (including remote automobile starters)
- never operate barbecues in an attached garage
- never run a lawnmower, snow blower or any gasoline powered tool in garage or house
- regularly clean clothes dryer duct work and outside vent cover (from lint, snow, overgrown plants)
- when operating appliances that operate on fossil fuel in tents, trailers, and motor homes, make sure that they are properly ventilated to the outside. Use electric or battery powered equipment where possible.
The installation of at least one good CO detector in your home is a good safety precaution. Most CO detectors give an alarm when CO levels reach a certain level in a specified time. However, lower levels can be of concern for unborn and young children, the elderly and those with a heart or respiratory problems. Therefore a CO detector that displays both low and high levels are sometimes preferred.
Get a detector listed with the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), and that has a memory if you want to monitor long term, low level exposure in addition to short term high level exposure. If it isn’t battery operated don’t plug into electrical outlets controlled by a wall switch. Replace them every 5 years unless otherwise warrantied.
Where to install CO detectors? Most manufacturers specify where to locate them. In general, they should be placed where you will hear them while sleeping. Because CO is about the same weight as air, and distributes evenly throughout a room, a detector can be placed at any height in any location as long as it can be heard.
However, avoid installing CO detectors in unheated basements, areas of high humidity, near vents or chimneys, close to heating and cooking appliances or where they are directly exposed to the weather. Most CO detectors have a test button that can be pressed once a week to confirm that it is working.
Treat any CO detector alarm as serious if it goes off. CO detectors are designed to go off before a healthy adult would notice any symptoms.
If your detector sounds an alarm then
- if it is obvious to you what the cause is, remove or turn off the source
- evacuate the house and call 911 if anyone has flu-like symptoms
- if you live in a duplex, townhouse, or apartment notify your neighbors to vacate their living quarters until their CO levels are verified safe
- ventilate the house
- if necessary have a qualified service technician inspect and repair all fuel-burning appliance including the furnace
- do not re-occupy the house until the alarm won’t go off anymore
- take all necessary steps to avoid a repeat of the situation in the future
Some symptoms of mild Carbon Monoxide Poisoning are headaches, running nose and sore eyes. Medium exposure symptoms are drowsiness, dizziness, and vomiting and a sense of disorientation.
Normal concentrations in and outside Canadian homes is 0-2 parts per million and recommended exposure over a 24 hour period is 10 ppm.
For cleaning and checking of ducts, vents, furnaces and chimneys, call Ram Furnace and Duct Cleaning @ 403-291-1051
Ram Cleaning Services, Complete Cleaning and Maintenance Care in Calgary and area since 1967
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