Carbon Monoxide Dangers

Carbon Monoxide Home Inspection For The Homewner

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, yet highly toxic gas has been used by humans since prehistoric times.   The carbon monoxide molecule consists of one atom of carbon and one atom of oxygen.  Carbon monoxide is formed from the partial oxidation of carbon containing compounds; it forms to the more common carbon dioxide when there is a condensed accessibility of oxygen, for example, in a home, when using a stove in an enclosed space.

Carbon monoxide is invisible to the human senses, so unfortunately people are oblivious when they are exposed to the gas.  On average, 170 U.S. citizens die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning.  Although carbon monoxide is undetectable to human senses, contact with this gas will cause your body to react negatively.  The health effects are dependent on the level of Carbon Monoxide concentration and length of exposure, as well and an individual’s health circumstance.  Concentration of carbon monoxide is measured in parts per million.  Most individuals will not experience any symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning in levels of approximately 1 to 70 ppm; however, some heart patients might experience an increase in chest pain.  Preliminary symptoms are similar to the flu, and include: headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, and dizziness.  Higher levels of carbon monoxide exposure will cause more rigorous symptoms including: mental confusion, vomiting, loss of muscular coordination, loss of consciousness, and eventually death.

There are significant home inspection precautions that you can take to prevent poisoning from carbon monoxide.

  • Make sure appliances are installed and operated according to the manufacturer’s instructions and local building codes.
  • Never service fuel-burning appliances without proper knowledge or tools.
  • Never operate a portable generator or any other gasoline engine powered tool in or close to an enclosed space such as a garage, home or other building.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector where recommended and be sure to use quality equipment.
  • Never use portable fuel burning equipment inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent unless it is specifically designed for use in an enclosed space.
  • Never burn charcoal inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent.
  • Never leave a car running in an attached garage.
  • Never use gas appliances such as ranges, ovens, or clothes dryer to heat your home.
  • Never cover the bottom of natural gas or propane ovens with aluminum foil.  Doing this blocks the combustion air flow through the appliance and can produce carbon monoxide.
  • During home renovation, ensure that appliance vents and chimneys are not blocked by tarps or debris.  Make sure appliances are in proper working order when renovations are complete.

A carbon monoxide detector is the best way to create awareness when carbon monoxide is present.  Different from smoke detectors they do not need to be placed near ceiling level.  The best place to keep a carbon monoxide alarm is close to heaters and other gas powered equipment.  If the alarm detects carbon monoxide, it will sound, giving people a chance to safely leave the structure before too much exposure. If a carbon monoxide alarm goes off never ignore the alarm.  Get outside as soon as possible and call your local emergency services.  Carbon monoxide alarms are reliable and can be purchased at a local hardware store or at any home improvement store.  Also make sure to have a home inspector check chimneys and flues for blockages, corrosion, partial and complete disconnections and also loose connections.

It is important to be educated on the toxic gas, and to make sure that you have a family plan for evacuation.