When temperatures get chilly, people start relying on combustion appliances for hours on end. With that comes a higher risk of deadly exposure to carbon monoxide (CO), a toxic, colorless, odorless gas known as the “silent killer.” Sadly, in the U.S. alone, accidental CO poisoning results in approximately 50,000 emergency room visits and 430 deaths yearly--all of which could have been avoided.
Below, we’ll explain some common cold-weather sources of carbon monoxide and what you can do to keep your household safe.
Common Sources of Carbon Monoxide
Combustion appliances are the most typical source of carbon monoxide you’ll find around the house. These are appliances that burn fuels (natural gas, oil, kerosene, coal, wood, etc.) to make heat or light. Some combustion appliances you’re probably familiar with include:
- Space heaters
- Stoves, ovens, and ranges
- Water heaters
- Clothes dryers
- Kerosene lanterns
Cars and portable generators also use combustion and are another common source of carbon monoxide. When working correctly, sufficiently maintained, and used under proper conditions (as directed by the manufacturer), all of these appliances and machines should be safe from an air quality perspective. When there is something wrong with the equipment or if it’s being used incorrectly, it may release combustion products (toxic gas and pollution) into your indoor air.
How Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Occurs During Winter
CO poisoning can occur in several ways during winter as people try to keep warm.
- Car exhaust fumes. People sometimes try to “warm up” their cars in the garage, which can allow CO to enter their home.
- Portable generators. Winter storms can knock the power out, causing many people to rely on their portable generators. When you place the generator indoors, in the garage, in a patio, or right outside an open window or door, there’s a substantial chance that a deadly amount of CO will enter your home.
- Gas or kerosene space heaters. Unlike electric space heaters (which produce no CO), these must be vented to the outdoors. Otherwise, they’ll allow CO to accumulate in your home.
- Furnace combustion issues and flue gas leaks. If your furnace isn’t burning fuel “cleanly,” then it will produce higher levels of CO and other pollutants. Your furnace is sealed to protect you from these harmful flue gases, which are vented outside. However, if there’s a leak in your system or a crack in your heat exchanger, those toxic gases will mix with your “breathing air.”
Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
The tragedy of carbon monoxide poisoning is that it’s always preventable. What’s more, CO exposure can cause long-term health damage even long after you remove the source of the problem. Protect your household by taking the following preventative measures:
- Make sure your home is adequately equipped with carbon monoxide detectors.
- Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using a combustion appliance.
- Get your gas furnace professionally inspected and maintained once a year, preferably before you intend to start using it heavily.
For top-quality heater repairs and maintenance in Atlanta and Western North Carolina, you can always rely on Premier Indoor Comfort Systems, LLC. Schedule your appointment online or give us a call at (770) 268-2422.