Carbon Monoxide in the Home - Purchasing and Using CO Detectors

December 16th 2008
Carbon Monoxide in the Home - Purchasing and Using CO Detectors

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless, deadly gas. Because you can't see, taste or smell it, CO can kill you before you know it's there. Today's more energy-efficient, airtight home designs contribute to the problem by trapping CO-polluted air inside the home.

There are several things you can do to prevent CO poisoning:

- Have your heating system, water heater, and any other gas, oil, or coal-burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
- Install a battery-operated CO detector in your home and check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall.
- If your CO detector sounds, evacuate your home immediately and telephone 911.
- Seek prompt medical attention if you suspect CO poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed, or nauseated.
- Do not use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove, or other gasoline or charcoal-burning device inside your home, basement, or garage, or near a window.
- Do not run a car or truck inside a garage attached to your house, even if you leave the door open.
- Do not burn anything in a stove or fireplace that is not vented.
- Do not heat your house with a gas oven.

Why is carbon monoxide so dangerous?

The great danger of CO is its attraction to hemoglobin in the bloodstream. CO is breathed in through your lungs, and bonds with hemoglobin in your blood, displacing the oxygen which cells need to function. When CO is present in the air it rapidly accumulates in the blood. It will eventually displace enough oxygen in your system to suffocate you from the inside out, resulting in brain damage or death.

Where does carbon monoxide occur?

A common by-product of appliances that run on flammable fuel, carbon monoxide can be emitted by gas or oil furnaces, refrigerators or clothes dryers, water heaters, fireplaces, wood stoves, charcoal grills, gas ranges and space heaters. A clogged chimney or improper venting can cause problems as well.

How can I protect myself from carbon monoxide poisoning?

When you are about to purchase a new CO Detector, make sure it is approved to the latest standards.

*Look for CSA 6.19 or CSA 6.19-01 on the package*

Where do I install my carbon monoxide detector?

Near the sleeping area, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which recommends at least one detector per household. A second detector located near the home's heating source adds an extra measure of safety.  I recommend one on every floor of home. Also, check for more information in you CO Detector user manual.