When it comes to most hazards in life, there are often warning signs that can be recognized through one of our senses. The sight of smoke can alert us to a dangerous fire; the smell of burning food lets us know to check the oven; and an irregular sound from a motor alerts us to any number of mechanical problems.

Carbon monoxide (CO), on the other hand, will not even make so much as a small “bump in the night” to let you know something is wrong. In fact, CO will likely feel as good as a breath of fresh air on a crisp fall morning. Even the symptoms associated with CO poisoning do not make it easy to detect. Headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion are also typical of other more common illnesses.

Virtually any appliance or piece of equipment that burns fuel will release CO into the air. If it is allowed to vent enough into an enclosed, or semi-enclosed area, then breathing it can poison a person, resulting in an unexpected sickness or death. This poison can also take someone’s life before any symptoms show—specifically for those who are sleeping or intoxicated.

As this matter relates to gas furnaces—we have pulled together some tips for how homeowners can prevent this stealthy threat:

  • First, having CO detectors installed close to any sleeping area is a smart, and small investment to make. It is a good idea to check these devices two times a year to make sure they are operating correctly, and that the batteries do not need replacing.
  • Also, make sure the home’s furnace—or any other fuel-burning equipment—is working safely with an annual service plan. During these check-ups, a qualified technician can identify any potential hazards and take care of them appropriately.

Hopefully, these tips will help keep you safe, and give you some piece of mind this season—while you enjoy the comfort and warmth of your home.
Source: You can learn more about CO—along with its potential hazards and some additional prevention tips—at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site: http://www.cdc.gov/co/default.htm.