While we’ve previously discussed the dangers of carbon monoxide, the risks become much higher during the winter months, when houses are closed against the cold weather and furnaces run day and night. Odorless, colorless, and tasteless, buildup of this dangerous gas can reach dangerous or even fatal levels before the people living inside a home are even aware there’s a problem.
We’re going to take a quick look today at the dangers of carbon monoxide in winter and what you can do to protect yourself and your family against this winter threat.
Where Does Carbon Monoxide Come From?
Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of burning fuel — wood, charcoal, gasoline, kerosene, oil, natural gas, and propane gas can all cause gas buildup within a home. Pennsylvania’s regular deep freeze makes it one of the states with the highest rates of carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the CDC.
Use Generators Sparingly — and Carefully
During prolonged power outages, the cold temperatures can make it tempting to rely on a generator to bring back heat and electricity to your freezing home. Generators are, unfortunately, a huge carbon monoxide risk, especially when not operated properly or used for too long. Only use your generator when absolutely necessary and for short periods of time. Do not use a generator to heat your home while you are sleeping, within enclosed spaces such as inside the home or a garage, and do not use a grill or gas oven.
Examples of carbon monoxide poisoning have occurred due to generators operating inside a closed garage, within a home’s walls, or even when kept in an outside room “with the door cracked open”. Buildup can happen quickly and with no warning. Please seek shelter elsewhere if you would be reliant on a generator for heat while you sleep.
Watch For the Symptoms
While the symptoms of severe carbon monoxide poisining — blinding headaches, sudden loss of consciousness, extreme nausea, and even death — are widely known, what is not often considered are the milder symptoms that tend to pop up in the hours or days prior to acute poisonoing. Watch for these common red flags:
- Household pets seem suddenly sluggish or refuse to eat or drink
- Unpleasant or strange odors from appliances
- House plants dying without explanation
- Flu-like symptoms striking you or your family (think headaches, nausea, fatigue)
- A buildup of condensation on inside windows
While many of these symptoms could have other causes, a combination of them is definitely a red flag that you need to get your home furnace checked out. If you are suffering from any of these symptoms, or you notice headaches, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, or shortness of breath… Head outside to seek fresh air immediately, and call for help. Seek immediate medical care. Do not re-enter your home until the issue has been resolved.
Schedule Preventative Maintenance Before the Deep Freeze Hits
Don’t wait until the cold weather has already completely taken hold, or after a winter storm hits, to get your furnace checked out by a professional. With our Gold Star Membership, you’ll receive a visit in the fall from our experienced technicians, who will ensure everything is in working order and will even check the carbon monoxide levels in your home. A furnace that’s in good working order from the first time you turn it on is far more likely to be safe than one which has gone without regular maintenance for any length of time.
One final note: absolutely ensure you have working carbon monoxide detectors in your home. Keep the batteries fresh, and check your manufacturer’s guide to learn the expected lifespan of the device. Make sure one is located on each level of your home, including the basement.
Need to Schedule Furnace Maintenance? Give Us a Call!
At Donnelly’s Plumbing Heating and Cooling, we’ve made it our mission for over 40 years to keep our communities here in Bucks, Montgomery, Delaware, and Chester counties safe and comfortable throughout the year. If you’re looking to repairs, a new installation, or scheduled preventative maintenance on your in-home heating and cooling system, give us a call! We’d be happy to send one of our professionals out to take a look. Reach us by phone at (215) 855-2014 or contact us online to schedule service at any time!