It can come from a number of sources throughout your home: a vehicle running in an attached garage or any kind of heater, stove, fireplace, or oven that burns traditional fuel.
Since carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless, and tasteless, it can be hard to detect. When breathed in, it replaces the oxygen that cells need to function. This can happen over several minutes to a few hours, depending on the source of the gas, potentially leading to unconsciousness or worse. In some cases, a leak is small enough that symptoms can persist over long periods without becoming fatal.
Luckily, there are ways to defend yourself against gas leak dangers:
- Be Alert to Unusual Smells
Although carbon monoxide is odorless, many potential sources create an odor if malfunctioning. A stale or stuffy smell in a clean room can be a sign of a gas leak. Items such as stoves often give off a burning smell when they are leaking. Also, look for the unexplained appearance of excess moisture on windows near fuel-burning appliances.
- Double-Check Risky Appliances
Protective steps for carbon monoxide leaks should start in your kitchen, where the majority of high-risk appliances will be found. Be sure all appliances are well-ventilated and get regular service to reduce the odds of a mechanical problem. If you have an attached garage, never warm up your car in the winter by idling it in the garage itself.
- Take Action Immediately if You Feel Symptoms
Recovery from carbon monoxide poisoning is possible, but it's vital to get away from the source of the leak right away. Once victims lose consciousness, the danger increases exponentially. Flu-like symptoms, including nausea, indigestion, headache, and light-headedness, are common. If all the members of the household feel better after going outside, a gas leak may be the culprit.
- Install CO Detectors
Many homeowners are opting to install CO detectors throughout the house. This significantly curbs the risk of a carbon monoxide leak by alerting you as soon as CO levels start to rise above the norm. In general, you can achieve good coverage throughout the house by installing CO detectors right next to smoke detectors wherever they might be found around the house.
- Have Your Heating System Double-Checked
Homeowners who use wood-burning stoves for heating are perhaps at the greatest risk of CO complications. Still, it's a good idea to be proactive about your heating system — no matter what style it is. A professional inspection of your heating system should be conducted once a year. If you notice that it's taking longer and longer to heat up, there may be a leak or electrical issue.
- Use a CO Detector Badge
A stationary CO detector is great for getting an early alert about a gas leak, but what if you have to track down a leak yourself? A CO detector badge gives you the opportunity to test CO levels in specific areas of the house since you can easily carry it to the site of suspected leaks. It takes about 15 minutes for a CO detector badge to darken, indicating the presence of CO.
Detecting CO early on is essential to protecting your home and family. The longer a CO leak is allowed to continue, the more dangerous it becomes. Likewise, if a mechanical failure is at the root of a leak, the odds are good the situation will only become worse until a professional can fix it. With these tips, you'll be alert to the dangers of CO and able to protect yourself more easily.