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Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas that can make you ill or cause potentially deadly health impacts when found in large concentrations inside your home. The gas, known by its chemical symbol, CO, is poisonous because it reduces the ability for oxygen to reach red blood cells in both humans and animals. It is particularly hard to detect and many homeowners who suffer from symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure mistake their headaches, nausea or dizziness for the onset of the flu rather than poisoning.

Where does carbon monoxide occur in the home?

Carbon monoxide is produced by emissions from common indoor appliances that burn gas and fuel – such as gas and wood fireplaces, gas stoves and oil furnaces. Water heaters, central heating systems, and refrigerators can also produce emissions, especially if they are placed in poorly vented or poorly enclosed areas. That’s why it’s important to ask your home inspector to examine whether your home or its appliances appear at risk for carbon monoxide accumulation. An inspector will check these appliances and also examine whether fireplaces and chimneys are properly ventilated to prevent gases from getting trapped in your home.

Is carbon monoxide present?

If you want to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, you can take several preventive measures in addition to your home inspection. Once you move in, install carbon monoxide detectors which will sound an alarm when carbon monoxide levels reach dangerous thresholds. Generally, manufacturers recommend placing these detectors in areas of the home where bedrooms are located and where furniture, curtains or boxes don’t block the detector. These detectors usually cost less than $100, and many are battery-powered and include an informational read-out as well as backup battery power. If you choose such a detector, pay close attention to its installation manual and note how long the detector is designed to last.

Preventing carbon monoxide buildup

Aside from installing a carbon monoxide detector, be sure to have your home heating system serviced annually. Also make sure your heating system as well as your gas stove or wood-burning stoves are properly vented to transport gases to the outdoors. To prevent the risk of carbon monoxide emissions, do not use un-vented fuel-based appliances in your home, especially not in areas of the house where people sleep. Because carbon monoxide is also produced by cars, charcoal and gas grills, lawn mowers, snow blowers, and other gas-powered appliances normally found outdoors, these appliances should not be operated indoors or in a closed garage.

Curious about carbon monoxide?