Mick's Heating and Air Conditioning Blog

Should I Be Concerned About Carbon Monoxide In My Home?

In the United States, between 20,000 and 30,000 people get sicked by carbon monoxide poisoning. 500 others die annually as a result. Carbon monoxide is a silent killer at home yet many people are still oblivious of carbon monoxide dangers. CO is a colorless, odorless gas produced as a result of incomplete combustion of fossil fuels. This means any heating system that uses coal, charcoal, heating oil, firewood or kerosene can produce CO. Automobiles also produce carbon monoxide when they burn diesel or gasoline. If you use any of these fuels at home, you may want to consider installing a carbon monoxide detector to warn you when you’re exposed to this silent killer.

Half of all U.S. states require homeowners to install carbon monoxide alarms in their homes. However, this law was amended in December, 2012 to exempt homeowners in 10 states. This exemption applied to homeowners with no internal combustion system that can produce CO, such as a fireplace, furnace or attached garage. According to toxicologists, this exemption is ill-advised because it gives homeowners a false sense of security. Experts believe this will lead to an increase in the number of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning cases especially in multi-unit buildings. This is because a neighbor who lights a charcoal grill indoors may poison homeowners who do not have CO sensors. After all, the gas can diffuse into their dwellings and poison them without their knowledge.

In 2002, carbon monoxide alarms were a requirement in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, but all housing units with electric heaters and no attached garages were exempted from this requirement. Homeowners were also not required to install a particular type of alarm, so most of them installed electricity-powered carbon monoxide alarms. In December, 2002, an ice storm caused a massive power outage in the county. This forced residents to start using CO-producing heating and cooking systems. As a result, there were 124 cases of severe CO poisoning reported, 96.2% of which were in homes without CO alarms.

CO poisoning is a real threat whether you have a CO producing appliance or not. Be sure to install a CO alarm that has a backup power supply, like a battery to ensure you’re still safe during a power outage. Follow us for more great articles on heating, air conditioning and home needs.