Climate Works Blog

What Is Carbon Monoxide?

To answer the question in one word, of what carbon monoxide is, we can sum it up with “Dangerous”. Yes, it is very dangerous, and that is why you need to take care to make sure your home is safe from carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is formed by the incomplete combustion of carbon.

It is found with the burning of many different fuels, from coal and wood, to charcoal, oil, kerosene, propane and natural gas. It is also found in equipment that is powered by internal combustion, including generators, cars, lawnmowers and power washers.

How dangerous is carbon monoxide?

Every single year, 170 people in the United States die from non-automotive carbon monoxide poisoning. The products that contribute the most to carbon monoxide poisoning include ranges, water heaters, room heaters, fireplaces and, of course, furnaces.

In 2005, 94 generator-related carbon monoxide poisoning deaths occurred, with 47 of those occurring when the power was out due to severe weather. In terms of automotive carbon monoxide deaths, those usually happen because a car was left running in a garage.

What are carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms?

If you are exposed to carbon monoxide poisoning, there can be several symptoms. These symptoms will depend greatly on whether or not you have been exposed to high or low levels of carbon monoxide. The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning have been described as being similar to the flu. These include:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Headache

If you are exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide, things become much more serious. Symptoms for this include vomiting, loss of coordination, loss of consciousness and mental confusion. The most extreme cases result in death.

How Do You Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

There are a number of ways to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning and they come down to being proactive. First, make sure all your appliances are installed in accordance with building codes and the specifications of the manufacturer. If you don’t know how to install the appliance, have a professional do it for you.

Second, you should never use fuel-burning appliances without proper knowledge of how they work. You should also never operate a gasoline powered-engine, or a portable generator, near any enclosed space like a house or garage. If you have doors and windows open, the carbon monoxide can still become trapped inside at lethal levels.

One of the best things you can do is to get a carbon monoxide detector. The detector will alert you if the carbon monoxide level in your home goes above what you consider to be safe. You should have a carbon monoxide detector in the hallway near every separate sleeping area in the home. You should also make sure that you never cover your carbon monoxide detector with furniture.

Obviously, you should never burn charcoal in your home, leave your car running in the garage, use a gas appliance to heat the home, or cover the bottom of the natural gas oven with aluminum foil as this will block the air flow.

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