Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, invisible gas that results when certain fuels do not burn completely. Because exposure to this gas can be deadly, it is important to know how to prevent it, detect it, and protect yourself and your family from its effects.
In the home, carbon monoxide is most commonly formed by flames and heaters, as well as vehicles or generators that are running in an attached garage. As temperatures drop and more people are turning up the heat in their homes as well as warming up the car’s engine before hitting the road, it is especially critical to ensure your family’s safety against this lethal gas.
Carbon Monoxide Detector Tips
Because carbon monoxide cannot be detected without a carbon monoxide detection device, it is essential to install and maintain one or more detectors in your home. The following are a few tips from the CAL FIRE San Diego County Fire Authority for safeguarding your household.
- The International Association of Fire Chiefs recommends placing a carbon monoxide detector on every floor of your home, including the basement. A detector should be located within 10 feet of each bedroom door, and there should be one near or over any attached garage.
- Each detector should be replaced every five to six years.
- Battery-only carbon monoxide detectors tend to go through batteries more frequently than expected. Plug-in detectors with a battery backup (for use if power is interrupted) provide less battery-changing maintenance.
- Thoroughly read the installation manual that comes with the individual detector you purchase. Manufacturers’ recommendations differ to a certain degree based on research conducted with detectors for specific brands.
- Remember that carbon monoxide detectors do not serve as smoke detectors and vice versa. You can, however, purchase a dual smoke/carbon monoxide detector that can perform both functions.
- Do not install carbon monoxide detectors next to fuel-burning appliances, as these appliances may emit a small amount of carbon monoxide upon startup.
- Do not use portable generators inside the home or garage, even if the doors and windows are open.
- Never bring a charcoal grill or barbeque into the house or garage for heating or cooking.
- Do not use a gas range or oven for heating.
- Have your home heating system (including chimneys and vents) inspected and serviced annually by a trained technician.
In Case of Exposure
If you suspect that you or someone you know has been exposed to carbon monoxide, check for the following symptoms:
- Dull headache
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of consciousness