It’s home heating season, which means homeowners should be on high alert against carbon monoxide leaks. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that is produced anytime fuel is consumed, and it can be deadly to humans and pets.

Carbon monoxide leaks from household furnaces, boilers, water heaters, and other household appliances are rare, but such leaks are leading causes of carbon monoxide poisoning. This is because carbon monoxide leaks are difficult to detect without special alarms, and homeowners may only become aware of a leak when they begin experiencing symptoms.

Raise the Alarm

It’s frightening that such a deadly gas can start flowing through your home without your knowledge, but fortunately, carbon monoxide detectors are cheap, reliable and easy to find at retail.

Just like smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors can alert everyone in the household to even a small leak and can save lives if leaks occur when everyone in the house is asleep.

When picking out a carbon monoxide detector, choose a model that plugs into a standard outlet and has a battery backup in the event of a power outage. Since they’re generally affordable, consider purchasing at least one for every floor of your home, one for every bedroom and one more for the area where your furnace is located.

Plug your detectors into outlets that are close to the floor. Unlike smoke, which rises, carbon monoxide is heavier than air and accumulates on the ground.

You should maintain your carbon monoxide detectors twice per year, just as with your smoke alarms. Test each unit, replace the batteries and replace the entire detector if it’s past its expiration date.

Serious Health Risk

Even if you have carbon monoxide detectors in your own home, you might someday find yourself in an environment with dangerous carbon monoxide levels and no alarm system. In that case, it’s important to know the symptoms and what to do.

Victims of carbon monoxide poisoning may experience dizziness, nausea, headaches, weakness, confusion or chest pain. After enough exposure, victims lose consciousness. It’s critical that everyone go outside and into the fresh air as quickly as possible, and then seek medical attention. Even if the symptoms gradually disappear on their own, carbon monoxide poisoning is a serious medical event that requires treatment.

No one should re-enter the home or building until HVAC technicians have been contacted for emergency service. Carbon monoxide may still be building up inside, and the structure will need to be completely ventilated before it’s safe to reenter.

Stop Leaks Before They Start

The best way to prevent carbon monoxide leaks is to have your HVAC system inspected and maintained every year. Small problems, like hairline cracks in your heat exchanger, can be found and repaired before they grow into major problems that could result in gas leaks.

If you’re overdue for a furnace inspection, contact your local HVAC experts without delay. And even if your furnace gets a clean bill of health, be sure to protect your family with well-maintained carbon monoxide detectors!