By Chris Buchanan • October 19, 2018

Ultimate Guide to Carbon Monoxide

If you're a homeowner, there's a good chance you have multiple detectors in your home. One of them is a smoke alarm, and the other (hopefully) is a carbon monoxide detector. You've probably heard about carbon monoxide, and you may know to be wary of it in order to keep you and your family safe. However, do you really know what carbon monoxide is, how it can get into your home, and what it can do to you?
In order to make sure you and your loved ones are protected, check out everything that you should know about carbon monoxide below.

So, What is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO), is a colorless, scentless, and flavorless gas that is known to be lethal to humans. Sometimes carbon monoxide is referred to as the silent killer, because when it enters your space or is around you, there are no warning signs.

Where Does Carbon Monoxide Come From?

Carbon monoxide is produced when fuel is burned. This means that it can come from a range of burning fuel sources, including oil, natural gas, kerosene, gasoline, coal, propane, and more.

What Are Some Sources of Carbon Monoxide in My Home?

There are many places that carbon monoxide can come from in your home. Here are some of the most common:
  • Generators: when the power goes out, people are tempted to run generators so they can still have electricity. Portable generators, however, emit CO as they run, so it's essential that they're never kept inside a home or a closed (or semi-enclosed) space.
  • Home appliances: a lot of the appliances in your home let out carbon monoxide as they run. If they burn fuel and the appliance isn't hooked up properly so it can safely dispel the carbon monoxide, you risk getting carbon monoxide poisoning in your own home. Some of the appliances that can emit dangerous CO in your house include a furnace, a gas grill, a non-electric space heater, and more. Your house needs to be properly ventilated by a professional to ensure that none of these appliances let CO into your home.
  • Cars: Vehicles that run on gasoline put out CO from their exhaust pipes. You should never allow your vehicle to run in a closed space, since the CO it puts out can accumulate and quickly cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Other vehicles also emit CO when they run, like boats, motorcycles, vans, trucks, RVs, and more.
  • Grills: When charcoal is burned on a grill, it gives off carbon monoxide. This means that you should never light a grill or have a barbecue indoors.

What Does Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Feel Like?

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a hard condition to diagnose because usually by the time carbon monoxide has done enough damage to cause major symptoms, it's too late. However, there are some signs you can learn to look for to indicate that you're experiencing poisoning from the gas.
The most common signs for carbon monoxide poisoning present a lot like the flu. People feel nauseous, weak, dizzy, short of breath, woozy, or sleepy. Carbon monoxide poisoning also commonly gives people a headache and slows their level of alertness.

How Do I Know if Someone is Experiencing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

In addition to looking for the flu like symptoms, there are some concrete signs that you or your loved ones are experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning.
First, if more than one person in a household is experiencing the same symptoms (and the symptoms have all come on at the same time), there's a chance they are breathing in carbon monoxide.
Also, if people who are experiencing these symptoms step outside and breathe fresh air in for some time and then feel better, there's also a good chance that their symptoms were being caused by carbon monoxide.
Finally, it's important to try to connect the onset of symptoms with the burning of a fuel source. If people started feeling bad after, say, you lit the grill, turned on a generator, or turned on a vehicle, there may be a good chance that they have been exposed to carbon monoxide.

Should I have a Carbon Monoxide Detector?

The answer is: yes! Put a CO detector in your house, and it can alert you when it detects unsafe levels of CO in the air. You should still be careful about doing regular maintenance on your appliances and being vigilant about how you burn fuel, but a CO detector is an important and smart step you can take to always keep your family safe. Make sure that the CO detector you choose to use is one that is certified, since you want to ensure that it has been tested and proven to work.
Carbon monoxide is a silent killer, and it can get into your home from a range of sources. Educate yourself about what produces carbon monoxide, and in turn, how you can prevent it from entering your home. If you understand what it is, where it comes from, and how you can detect it, you can ensure that your loved ones are never at risk of getting carbon monoxide poisoning and rest easy knowing everyone is safe and sound.