You hear about it on the news – a family of four found dead in their home. The culprit is carbon monoxide. It’s tragic, and worse yet, preventable. That’s why, at City Wide Heating and Cooling, we think it’s important to educate and sometimes just remind our customers in Olathe and surrounding areas of the dangers of carbon monoxide. It seems the problem can be worse in the winter because many people try to run heaters indoors which can lead to CO buildup. Also, your furnace can create carbon monoxide if not vented properly or if it has a leak. An annual furnace tune-up can detect and prevent these deadly leaks.

Be Aware of These Carbon Monoxide Symptoms

Carbon Monoxide is odorless and colorless, so essentially you don’t know it’s there. There are warning signs to look for, however, to alert you to its presence. Look for any of these signs and be aware that these could be caused by high concentrations of CO gas. If you experience any of these symptoms, get to fresh air immediately and call 911.

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Cramps
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Nausea
  • Disorientation
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of Consciousness

Many of these symptoms mimic the flu, so be aware and don’t just assume it’s a normal sickness. As the amount of carbon monoxide begins to build up in your bloodstream, you will begin to vomit. A loss of consciousness is certainly the most frightening symptom. Usually deaths occur when the gas builds up overnight while unsuspecting victims are sleeping and rendered unconscious before they even realize there is a problem.

How Does Carbon Monoxide Kill?

Carbon monoxide bonds with the hemoglobin in your blood. It will accumulate very rapidly in the blood, leaving the blood cells short of needed oxygen. It also leaves the blood very slowly which is why repeated or prolonged exposure can raise the danger. The elderly and very young are more susceptible and don’t forget about your pets. They are at risk as well.

Precautions to Prevent Accidental CO Poisoning

Carbon monoxide is formed by burning some sort of fuel. If the flame is impinged upon, the fire is not completely extinguished (smoldering coals), etc., the result can cause incomplete combustion. The CO is the gas that is not burned off. Sometimes if there is a leak in a furnace, water heater, or other appliance, the gas can leak out inside the house instead of being vented to the outside.  Fuel-burning appliances are the only ones from which carbon monoxide results. Electric appliances don’t create CO. Improperly vented natural gas or propane heaters and fireplaces or a wood burning fireplace can all create carbon monoxide.

  • For the natural gas and propane appliances, have a technician from the gas company do a leak check and also look at the vent. They usually do this for free.
  • If you have a wood burning fireplace, you should always check to make sure the damper is open and the flue is clear. It’s a good idea to have your chimney swept (cleaned) every year or two.
  • Always operate kerosene-powered heaters in ventilated areas too.
  • Burning wood creates more CO than natural gas. That’s why you should never charcoal grill in a tent or garage as the gas can build up in this enclosed area. The same goes for warming up your car in the garage.
  • If you have a garage and you want to warm your car up in the winter, DO NOT warm it up in the garage. The exhaust from the car can seep into your house through the door if your car is in the garage. If you must warm it up, pull it out of the garage so the gas can dissipate outside.
  • Also, if there is a heavy snowstorm, remember to check your outside vents to make sure they are not plugged up with snow. You should check these regularly throughout the year to ensure that birds, squirrels, mice, etc. have not built a home and blocked the airflow.

Make Sure Your Home Has a Carbon Monoxide Detector!

The best way to protect yourself and your family from this silent killer is to purchase and install a carbon monoxide detector. Like a smoke detector, it will sound an alarm if carbon monoxide gas is detected. If you think the furnace in your Olathe home could use a safety check, call City Wide Heating and Cooling to schedule a furnace tune-up at 913-384-6006.