Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous gas that causes the accidental deaths of hundreds of people every day. This gas is undetectable by smell or taste, making it exceptionally dangerous in the event of a leak. Fully functional and reliable carbon monoxide detectors are essential to reduce your risk of CO poisoning.
People tend to use heaters and heating systems more during cold temperatures, which increases the risk of CO poisoning during the winter months. According to the CDC, at least 430 people die from accidental CO poisoning in the U.S. every year, and approximately 50,000 are hospitalized.
To avoid the risk of CO poisoning in your home, use a multi or single zone mini split system to control your home’s temperature. These units do not produce carbon monoxide and are a more efficient way to heat and cool your home than space heaters or central ducted systems. However, if you use any CO-emitting appliances, it’s important to know how to protect yourself from harm.
Install a Carbon Monoxide Detector
The best way to protect yourself from CO is with early detection. The chemical compound emits no taste or smell, so installing a CO detector is the best way to determine if there’s CO in the area. Check your CO detection device every month and twice per month during the colder seasons when you use your heaters more often. The unit should have a test button that you can press to ensure the batteries are still operational. You should change your batteries every six months, regardless of how charged they are.
If your CO detector goes off, the first step is to switch off any appliances or potential sources of combustion. Open windows and doors to get clean and fresh air into the building. Next, get everyone in your home out of the building. In some regions, there are dedicated emergency services for handling CO issues. However, you can always call 911 if there is an emergency.
A qualified technician can visit the premises to troubleshoot the issue before fixing it and restarting your appliances. If any members of the household experience CO poison symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, or vomiting, they should move into an area with fresh air and seek immediate medical attention.
Service Appliances Regularly
After years of use, components may become worn and damaged, leading to breakdowns and problems with your appliances. Regularly servicing household appliances helps reduce the effects of wear and tear.
If heating systems and other household appliances aren’t well maintained, they lose efficiency and functionality. In addition to cost-savings and longer-lasting devices, servicing these appliances makes them much safer. Conversely, damaged goods or poorly maintained items create safety hazards.
A trained technician will be able to detect if devices are dangerously worn. They will also know what to look out for in terms of leaks and malfunctioning parts. By repairing mechanical problems early, you can prevent unnecessary accidents, such as CO poisoning and house fires caused by CO leaks.
Items like a dishwasher or washing machine are generally low maintenance and don’t necessarily require servicing until performance or sound issues are detected. On the other hand, a water heater may need professional servicing every three to six years, while a gas stove should be serviced by a professional technician annually.
Other appliances to keep well maintained include:
- Space heaters
- Charcoal grills
- Other fuel-burning appliances
Exercise Caution with Vehicle Fumes
One of the most common types of carbon monoxide poisoning occurs from exposure to vehicle exhaust fumes. When cars burn fuel, CO is emitted from the exhaust pipes. Although these fumes don’t pose much of a threat outdoors, they are extremely dangerous in confined, poorly ventilated spaces.
Many U.S. vehicle owners store their cars in home garages to keep them safe from weather, theft, and accidental damage. While this is effective in protecting a vehicle, it can create some dangerous scenarios. For example, you should never let your engine run while the car is parked in your garage with the door closed. CO fumes can fill the space very quickly, causing CO poisoning, which can be fatal.
Car repair shops often install comprehensive exhaust extraction systems to minimize pollution and the risk of CO poisoning. These can be highly effective but are generally expensive to install and run. As a result, it’s more economical for people to exercise caution in their homes when it comes to vehicle fumes.
Always open your garage door before starting your car. Take the same precautions with lawnmowers, snowblowers, and machines with gas-fueled engines. As a general rule, don’t run an engine within 20 feet of an open garage, door, window, vent, or enclosed area.
Invest in a CO-Free Heating and Cooling System
If you want to reduce the number of fuel-burning appliances you use regularly, consider investing in a CO-free heating and cooling system. While traditional heating options are fuel-burning, CO-emitting appliances, a ductless mini split air conditioner is a modern, efficient, and non-fuel-burning heating and cooling system. Installing a mini split not only gives you an environmentally friendly and cost-effective heating and cooling appliance but eliminates the risk of CO poisoning from your system.
The best ductless air conditioner depends on the size and layout of your home. There are two primary types of mini splits:
- Single Zone Mini Split Systems: These consist of one outdoor condenser unit and one indoor air handler. They are most effective at controlling temperature and airflow in one area of a home. They come in various output options, making them adaptable to different sizes of rooms. Single zone mini splits are perfect for apartments, single-story homes, or individual rooms.
- Dual Zone Mini Split Systems: These systems consist of one outdoor unit and multiple indoor handlers (usually from two to eight). They allow custom temperature control for specific zones around your home, as each air handler can be controlled individually.
Many modern mini split systems are smart technology enabled, so they can be controlled remotely from your phone or smart device. Ensure you choose an appliance with a suitable warranty that covers you if repairs and replacements are needed.
CO Poisoning Is Preventable
Most CO poisoning is avoidable. By installing a carbon monoxide detector and reducing the potential for dangerous fumes from entering your home, you can eliminate the risks of exposure to CO and the potentially deadly side effects. However, it’s important to exercise extreme caution when it comes to safety. Never take any chances. If you suspect there may be CO present in your home, open the windows and doors, leave the premises, and call the fire department.