What is carbon monoxide? What are its properties? How is it formed?
The incomplete combustion of carbon containing fuels, such as natural gas, propane, coal, and gasoline produces carbon monoxide gas. The chemical symbol for carbon monoxide is CO. Incomplete combustion occurs when there is not enough oxygen for the carbon to burn completely. The physical properties of carbon monoxide are as follows: odorless, colorless, highly toxic gas.
How this relates to safety in your home or building.
As combustion appliances age, their components can wear, go out of adjustment, or stop working. When a gas burning furnace, stove, water heater, gas dryer, etc. is not working correctly, or during a fire, carbon monoxide can accumulate in your home or building. In addition to the primary burner for the appliance, the pilot lights and vents can also be the source of CO. Carbon monoxide can also migrate to your home or building from a home or other sources near you. If any of these were to happen, the results can be very serious or fatal.
What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?
The symptoms of carbon vary with the concentration of carbon monoxide, the length of exposure, and other physical and physiological factors. Carbon monoxide affects the body in a number of ways, primarily by limiting the ability of the red blood cells to absorb and transport vital oxygen. Some of the symptoms are dizziness, headache, nausea, weak pulse, flu-like symptoms, fatigue, confusion, tightness of chest, respiratory failure, convulsions and death.
How can I tell when carbon monoxide gas is present?
Since the gas is colorless, odorless and tasteless, you will not know until the poisonous gas causes physiological symptoms unless you have a properly located and functioning carbon monoxide detector and alarm.
What are the types of CO detectors and alarms?
Make sure you get expert service or advice on this topic. Ideally, the expert or certified technician that provides this service for you will do so based on observations made on site, including: the layout and construction of your home and the location of fuel burning appliances within and near it.
Generally, these alarms detect carbon monoxide and give an audible (sound) alarm so you can leave the building immediately. A less common type of detector gives visual indicators that change colors, etc. in the presence of carbon monoxide.
One way to categorize carbon monoxide alarms is by their power source. The choices vary from battery powered to wall outlet plug-in models to models that are hard wired. There are also models that use plug in or wired electricity as their primary power source and have a battery backup.
How do I get rid of carbon monoxide gas or prevent it from being in my home or building?
Two ways. (1) Have your furnace, water heater, stove and other fuel burning appliances and their vents tested, and if needed, adjusted on a regular basis by a certified technician. A convenient time to have these performed is in conjunction with your air conditioning and heating system annual maintenance. Ask your local HVAC contractor if they offer this service and, if not, if they can recommend a local company who does. (2) Have carbon monoxide detectors professionally installed and make sure they are checked periodically per the owner’s manual.
How do I know a company or technician is qualified or certified to test for carbon monoxide or maintain appliances to correct or prevent it?
There are a number organizations in the U.S. that maintain certification programs for carbon monoxide technicians or equipment. We will give a partial list here:
Some of the other factors or questions you might want to consider: the length the company has been in business, the years of experience the technician has in this field, the type of current certification they have, and the company’s rating by the Better Business Bureau in your city.
The main two points regarding carbon monoxide in homes:
(1) Carbon monoxide alarms must be placed in the correct places in your home or building and must be working properly for the circumstances there.
(2) Get expert service and advice to make sure your home or building stays protected.
What is my next step?
Since you should have your air conditioning and heating system inspected and maintained yearly, this provides an ideal time to test your furnace for proper operation. Typically this includes a spring tune up for the air conditioning and a fall tuning of the central heating system furnace. While calling for your appointment, ask your air conditioning and heating contractor if their technicians also perform testing and tune-ups for your gas stoves and water heater and install alarms. If not, ask if they can recommend a company to do so or call your plumbing contractor to ask for a certified technician.