Carbon Monoxide Poisonings – Yes, even in Longmont!
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas produced by burning gas, wood, propane, charcoal or other fuel. It’s also toxic…and can make you experience sensations like you are living in a haunted house. (My favorite story of a “haunting” caused by CO is from This American Life, which you can listen to or read here.)
You must have a CO detector if you have fuel-burning appliances in your home. And if you have such appliances on more than one level of your home, you should have a carbon monoxide detector on each level. It’s important to install them near bedrooms, too.
For a typical three-bedroom, two-bath home with an attic and basement, the National Fire Prevention Association recommends four CO detectors.
If something goes wrong with one of your fuel-burning appliances, such as your furnace, fireplace, stove or hot-water heater then dangerous levels of carbon monoxide can start to circulate throughout your home.
Carbon monoxide poisonings are not uncommon. In 2018, a water heater failed at the Motel 6 on N. Main in Longmont and sent a guest to the hospital!
Activities around your home that produce CO:
- Any oil, propane, or natural gas furnace, cooking stove or range, hot water heater, or fireplace.
- Any wood or wood-burning product such as a woodstove, heat stove, fireplace, or wood-pellet stove.
- A running car in a garage.
Check Your CO Detectors Today
Just like smoke detectors, you must monitor your CO detector to ensure it is in working order so it can protect you and your loved ones when needed. I suggest that you:
- Replace the device after 5-6 years. Check for a manufacture date stamped on the back to determine its age.
- Look on the back of the CO detector for a UL symbol—for Underwriters Laboratories to ensure it has passed safety tests. This symbol indicates that it has been tested to a widely accepted safety standard. This is a third-party testing agency and lets you know that your device is certified. Unfortunately, there are some detectors out there that haven’t had third-party testing and have failed when exposed to dangerous levels of CO, according to Consumer Reports.
- Don’t forget to replace batteries as needed. Set a time twice each year, like daylight savings, to replace your CO detectors’ batteries along with any smoke detectors in your home. Keep in mind that you also can buy CO detectors that are hard-wired or that can be plugged in.
Colorado Requirements for Home Sellers and Homeowners
Colorado requires home sellers to install carbon monoxide detectors before a home is sold, without exception.
Mild exposure to CO can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, irregular breathing, drowsiness and confusion (not to mention feelings that your house is haunted!). It has symptoms similar to the flu, but without a fever. Those with heart disease can experience an increase in chest pain.
Severe exposure to CO can cause brain damage and death. Children and the elderly are especially susceptible.
CO doesn’t smell and you won’t be aware that high levels are being released into the air. That’s why it’s called the silent killer.
Some people who are overexposed simply fall asleep and never regain consciousness. Unfortunately, faulty heating devices are a major cause of CO poisoning during cold weather.
If you think you or a family member have been exposed to CO, get outside immediately for fresh air and seek emergency medical help. Open the windows of your home to ventilate. Call the fire department and don’t use any faulty appliance/engine until it has been thoroughly checked out or replaced.
How to Prevent CO Poisoning
The City of Longmont has a fantastic webpage detailing CO risks, and actions to take to keep you safe if you’re looking for a detailed resource. In summary: improperly ventilated appliances and engines, particularly in a tightly sealed or enclosed space, may allow carbon monoxide to accumulate to dangerous levels.
That’s why it’s very important to have your appliances properly installed and maintained regularly. Have professional service inspections on a timely basis to ensure that your appliances and chimney are in working order and are venting properly. And, always follow manufacturer’s directions when operating any appliances. Other tips:
- Make sure the room where an unvented gas or kerosene space heater is used is well ventilated; doors leading to another room should be open to allow added ventilation.
- Never use an unvented combustion heater overnight or in a room where you are sleeping.
- Never use charcoal grills inside a home, tent, camper, or unventilated garage.
- Don’t leave vehicles running in an enclosed garage, even to “warm up” a car on a cold morning.
Be in touch with me if you have any questions about CO detectors. Take the time today to go through your home and look at each of your CO detectors and be sure you have one on every floor or consider getting additional devices.
I'm Libby Earthman. I specialize in helping first-time buyers and sellers pursue financial security on the Northern Front Range.
825 Delaware Ave, Suite 208
Longmont, CO 80501