Carbon monoxide — “The Silent Killer” — is a colorless, odourless gas which in high levels causes paralysis, brain damage and eventual death if not detected and treated by a medical professional. Every house with a fuel-based heating source is at risk of CO infiltration. Even without a chimney, every consumer with a car in a garage is at risk. Carbon monoxide is caused by improper burning of carbon-based fuels. Your chimney, wood stove, gas stove and car exhaust are common culprits of CO emissions. Never leave the garage door closed when you start your car. Always perform regular maintenance on your stoves and chimneys.
Your first line of defense against CO poisoning is the purchase and proper installation of carbon monoxide detectors in your house. If you are exposed to carbon monoxide, make sure to seek medical treatment.
Choosing a Carbon Monoxide Detector
Carbon monoxide detectors emit an alarm and flash a light when the room reaches high levels of CO. There are three main types of CO detectors available for purchase: battery-powered, plug-in and hardwired detectors. All three devices work at detecting CO but come with different features and price points.
Battery-powered carbon monoxide detectors come with the benefit of portability. You are not locked into the location if you decide you did not install it properly. The downside is you must maintain the battery or the device is useless. Battery-powered detectors are the cheapest on the market.
Plug-in detectors come with the peace of mind of not running out of juice. But you use a wired outlet to plug the device in which eliminates an electrical outlet. You can also get a backup battery for the device so if you lose power you don’t lose your CO detector protection.
Hardwired detectors are wired into your house. The benefit is the carbon monoxide detector is permanently installed in the house to prevent tampering or being disabled by a tenant. The CO detector also can be hardwired in with the smoke alarms and other heat alarms keeping your house protected. Hardwired detectors are the most expensive of the three.
Installing Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Carbon monoxide detectors should be placed according to manufacturers specifications. A detector should be placed outside each sleeping room to alert occupants of dangerous CO levels. Next, you need a carbon monoxide detector in each room with a fuel-based heating source. Consider placing a carbon monoxide detector in your garage as well.
Never place a CO detector near an outside door or window. The influx of air messes up the detection levels. You don’t want to place a CO detector in an enclosed space like a cabinet or closet. The lack of air flow limits the CO detector’s ability to function properly. Finally, don’t install the device next to a sink or an air vent.
Maintaining Your Carbon Monoxide Detector
Your carbon monoxide detector comes with manufacturers recommendations for maintaining your device. Make sure you follow the instructions to the letter to get maximum life-span out of your device. Battery-powered carbon monoxide detectors emit an alarm when the batteries begin to run out. Replace your carbon monoxide detector’s battery regularly to keep the device at prime levels. Use the same schedule that you use for your fire alarms. Carbon monoxide detectors eventually give out. Expect to get a good 3-5 years out of your device before you need to replace the device.
Warning Signs of CO Poisoning
A CO detector alarm could be your only warning of lethal CO levels. Symptoms of CO poisoning resemble the flu, commons viruses and fatigue. Headaches, stomach pains, fatigue, visual impairment and erratic behavior are just some symptoms of CO poisoning. Immediately exiting the area of CO contamination lessens the symptoms but medical treatment is needed.
Seek Medical Treatment
Seek medical treatment if you suspect you were exposed to high carbon monoxide levels. Treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning requires pure oxygen administered by a mask or ventilator. In extreme cases, your doctor may recommend hyperbaric oxygen therapy to eliminate CO from your blood.
Make sure you call in professionals to identify and eliminate the source of CO poisoning before re-entering the residence. Continued exposure to CO poisoning could kill you or cause severe health problems.
Sam Jones the author of this article advises readers wanting more info about the range of carbon monoxide detectors available to visit the helpful advice pages at uSwitch.