How To Protect Your Family From Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

While you may have heard about carbon monoxide poisoning, chances are you’ve assumed that it wouldn’t affect your home or family. However, carbon monoxide poisoning can happen in any home. Some behaviors put you at an increased risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, so it’s important to know how to keep yourself and your family safe. Follow these 10 tips for protecting your family from carbon monoxide poisoning in Houston, TX.

1. Install Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Carbon monoxide detectors are an essential line of defense against carbon monoxide poisoning. Since you can’t smell, taste or see carbon monoxide, the alarm is the only way you’ll know it’s in your home. You should have a detector on every floor of your home. There should be a monitor outside each bedroom. The alarm should be loud enough to wake you out of a deep sleep. Gas-powered appliances, such as furnaces, should have a monitor 15 feet away from their location. Putting the monitor closer could result in false-positive alarms. Surprisingly, direct sunlight can cause a false positive alarm. Avoid putting the alarms in drafty areas or near doors or windows, which could cause false-negative results.

2. Check and Replace Carbon Monoxide Detector Batteries

Many carbon monoxide detectors are hard-wired into your home’s electrical system. However, you still need to have battery backups for your carbon monoxide and smoke alarms. If the power goes out, you’re more likely to use a grill or generator, which are risky devices for carbon monoxide poisoning. A hard-wired carbon monoxide monitor won’t sound during a power outage unless it has a battery backup. Check the batteries once each month. Replace the batteries every six months.

3. Test the Carbon Monoxide Monitors

Take a couple of minutes each month to test your home’s carbon monoxide detectors. Most detectors have a test button. All you need to do is push it. The monitor should make a sound. If it doesn’t, check the batteries. If the batteries are good, you may need a new carbon monoxide monitor. Most alarms should sound if the level of carbon monoxide exceeds 10 to 20 parts per million. Heart and respiratory symptoms become serious at 30 parts per million, and medical attention is required at 100 parts per million. Create an evacuation plan and practice it each time you test the carbon monoxide monitors.

4. Learn the Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

It’s important to know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. If your other protective efforts fail, you need to know when to call for help. The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning mimic those of many illnesses. They include fatigue, malaise, headache, nausea, dizziness and shortness of breath. As the level of carbon monoxide in your Houston home increases, symptoms quickly worsen. Vomiting, loss of muscle coordination, mental confusion, loss of consciousness and death may follow.

5. Clean Your Dryer Filter

Your clothes dryer filter captures a layer of fibers every time you run a load of laundry through the appliance. If you leave the lint buildup in the filter, the carbon monoxide gas produced during the combustion process won’t have anywhere to go. It will infiltrate your home. Lint blockages are also a fire hazard. The heat needs to escape through the vent, and lint buildup traps the heat. Lint is also highly flammable, so the heat combined with combustible materials creates a potentially dangerous situation. Just scoop the lint off the filter after each load. Once a month, wash the screen with gentle dishwashing liquid and a toothbrush. Dry the screen before returning it to the dryer’s lint trap.

6. Schedule Regular Appliance Servicing

Many homes use natural gas to power multiple appliances. Your home may have a gas-powered water heater, furnace, clothes dryer, oven or fireplace. A malfunction with a valve, sensor, burner or relay in one of these appliances could result in carbon monoxide gas getting released into your home. If you notice any performance problems with your home’s gas-powered appliances, stop using them and call for service. An annual tune-up of each of these appliances is a smart decision. The servicing usually includes cleaning, lubrication of moving parts and a safety and performance test.

7. Arrange an Annual Tune-Up of Your Furnace

Your Houston home’s furnace is likely the biggest and most frequent user of natural gas during the winter months of the year. The furnace should have an annual tune-up each autumn. Scheduling this tune-up in autumn gives our NATE-certified technicians plenty of time to identify any problems and get them fixed before the first chilly air of the winter arrives. An annual maintenance visit for heating systems also improves energy efficiency, boosts your home’s indoor air quality and gives you peace of mind. A well-maintained heating system uses 10% to 20% less fuel to heat your home and does a better job of maintaining consistent temperatures.

8. Be Cautious With Fuel-burning Appliances

If your power goes out, you might be tempted to set up a charcoal or propane gas grill on your porch for cooking. This is a bad idea because the exhaust from burning these fuels contains carbon monoxide. Keep the grill more than 10 feet from your home’s door and windows. Avoid using gas-powered space heaters in your home. If you have a generator to provide electricity during power outages, keep doors and windows shut while the gas generator is running. Have your chimney swept each year, whether it is a gas-burning or wood-burning fireplace.

9. Avoid Idling Engines in or Near Your Home

If you’re warming your car before you start driving on a cold winter morning, this is a bad idea. The vehicle’s exhaust contains carbon monoxide and other poisonous gases. Those fumes can seep into your home in gaps around the door between your garage and home. Even if you have a detached garage within 10 feet of your home, intake vents can pull in the exhaust fumes. Avoid idling other gas-powered vehicles in attached garages or near your home, including lawnmowers, leaf blowers and trimmers.

10. Check Flues and Chimneys

Flues and chimneys release heat. This makes them tempting places for birds and animals to nest or seek shelter. The debris from animal dens or nests prevents carbon monoxide and other gases from ventilating out of your home. Debris from trees or structural damage to the chimney or flue could also cause the gases to seep into your home. Check these structures after severe weather events. Once a month, check the flues and chimney. Use a pair of binoculars if these structures are on the second story of your home. It’s also a good idea to have a mason, chimney sweep or roofer inspect flues and chimneys once each year.

Custom Comfort Air is proud to be Houston’s trusted source for heating repair services. You can also turn to us for air conditioning and heating maintenance, installation and replacement. Our indoor air quality solutions and Gold Club service plans are designed to improve your comfort and help you save money. To learn more about protecting your family from carbon monoxide poisoning, contact us at Custom Comfort Air today. We have offices in Rosenberg and Sugar Land.