Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas which is poisonous to humans and animals who breathe too much of it. CO poisoning symptoms range from the flu-like to severe, and can even be deadly. CO poisoning sends nearly 20,000 Americans to the ER annually. It kills around 400. Many of these fatalities occur while victims are sleeping, before they can notice symptoms or warning signs.
CO is produced by burning fuel. Dangerous leaks in the home can come from several sources, including kitchen appliances. Use these tips to safeguard your kitchen, and minimize the risk of CO leaks.
CO detectors save lives. Although house fires are a major source of CO poisoning, it’s not enough to just have a smoke detector, as CO leaks can be dangerous even without a fire. Some things to keep in mind:
- Selection: When shopping for CO detectors, there are two big things to check for. First, make sure there’s an indication that the device meets UL Standard 2034. Second, check the expiration date. Detectors lose sensitivity over time, so go with a recent model. See Consumer Reports for additional info on the best options.
- Installation: The most important place to install detectors is in and around bedrooms, as CO is especially dangerous when we’re asleep and can’t notice the warning signs. Ideally, there should be at least one detector on each floor of your home. One place not to install detectors? Too near kitchen appliances, as they may emit some CO when starting–and an alarm that goes off to often can get a little too “boy who cried wolf.” Leave a minimum of fifteen feet between detectors and kitchen appliances. Also avoid installing in bathrooms or other places where extreme humidity could interfere with the device’s sensitivity.
- Change Your Clock, Change Your Battery: Make a habit of checking and changing CO detector batteries each spring and summer when you adjust your clocks (or, for those all-digital among us, when you celebrate the extra hour to sleep in, and again when you mourn the lost hour of sleep). Get the kids in on it, too–it’s a tradition that will keep them safe for years to come.
Experts recommend calling in a technician to service your heating system, water heater, and any other gas, coal, or oil burning appliances annually. American Repair Service offers general appliance repair and services for an extensive range of brands and models. Ask to have an exam included with any other appliance repairs you have scheduled.
Check vents on appliances to make sure they aren’t blocked. Horizontal vent pipes, like those on water heaters, should tilt upward.
Use Your Nose
CO itself may be odorless, but sometimes strange odors can be a sign an appliance is damaged and prone to leaks. Be particularly cautious of strange smells coming from gas refrigerators.
Clean Your Chimney
Blocked chimneys can trap CO in the home. Have yours cleaned regularly.
Be Cautious With Generators
If using a generator indoors, keep it within 20 feet of a vent, window, or door to avoid CO buildup.
Don’t MacGyver It
Please, please leave the repairs to the professionals–and no, we’re not just saying that because we are the professionals. Vent pipe repairs are not the place to DIY with tape or anything else.
Concerned you may have a problem, or behind on having your CO producing appliances serviced?