We’ve all heard horror stories about carbon monoxide (CO) and yet many homes in South Jersey aren’t equipped with carbon monoxide detectors. Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless gas that results from the incomplete burning of a fuel. Instead of producing carbon dioxide, the incomplete burning process results in carbon monoxide, which is highly dangerous and potentially deadly. The CDC estimates that 15,000 people are sent to the emergency room every year as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning, which is also responsible for 500 unintentional deaths annually in the U.S.
Why Carbon Monoxide is Dangerous
Carbon monoxide adheres itself to the hemoglobin in the blood, which is responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body. The carbon monoxide blocks oxygen from entering your bloodstream, resulting in organ and tissue damage. It is especially dangerous for children, the elderly and those with heart disease and other conditions that already compromise the delivery of oxygen to your organs and tissues.
Any home that operates combustion appliances, such as a gas furnace or a wood burning stove or fireplace, is at risk for carbon monoxide leaks. Your best defense against CO poisoning is an awareness of the symptoms related to carbon monoxide exposure, as well as installing high-quality CO detectors in your home.
Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Because the symptoms of CO exposure at low levels often mimic those of the flu, victims of CO poisoning may not realize that they’ve been exposed to this potentially deadly gas. Symptoms include nausea and vomiting, lightheadedness, headache, fatigue and confusion. Higher levels of exposure can lead to convulsions, unconsciousness and death within minutes. If you suspect you’ve been exposed to carbon monoxide, open your windows and doors and get everyone, including pets, outside to fresh air immediately and call 911.
CO Detectors Save Lives
Carbon monoxide detectors are essential for protecting your family from carbon monoxide poisoning. In fact, CO detectors may be the only indication that you have a CO leak in your home, and they are your first defense against CO exposure and related illness.
All CO detectors are not created equal. When you’re shopping around for CO detectors, it’s always best to choose a model that has these essential features:
- Audible alarm. Some CO detectors feature lights that change color when carbon monoxide is detected in the air. However, if you’re sleeping or across the house from the detector, you may not realize you’re being exposed. Choose a model with a shrill, audible alarm that can wake even the soundest sleeper and be heard from across the house.
- Digital readout. If your CO detector sounds, knowing the level of carbon monoxide in your air can help emergency personnel not only find the source of the leak, but also determine the best medical intervention for you and your family. High levels of exposure may require a trip to the hospital for oxygen therapy, while low levels of exposure may simply require breathing fresh air for a period of time. If your alarm goes off, note the reading and give this information to any HVAC technicians and medical personnel on the scene.
- Battery backup. While many models of CO detectors plug into outlets or are hardwired to your home’s electrical system, battery backup is essential to ensure you’re protected during a power outage, when you’re likely to be operating space heaters, fireplaces, generators and other equipment that has the potential to produce and leak carbon monoxide. Be sure to replace your batteries every fall, whether or not the battery alert has sounded.
- Audible alerts. Choose a CO detector that alerts you with a series of beeps when your batteries are getting low or when the recommended operating life of your detector is reaching an end.
- UL certified. The Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) is highly respected independent safety company who inspects and certifies safety equipment to ensure quality and high standards.
Installing CO Detectors in Your Home
Install a CO detector on every level of your home. One should be nearby your main sleeping area. Humidity can trigger a false alarm, so don’t install them in your kitchen or bathroom. Keep them at least 15 feet away from combustion appliances, and don’t install them next to doors or windows, which can interfere with accurate readings due to air leaks.
For more expert advice about carbon monoxide, or to schedule service to ensure your furnace is functioning correctly, please contact us today at 877-216-3505.