November is Carbon Monoxide Awareness Month.

Winter is the most dangerous time for carbon monoxide poisoning. During the cold season, when extreme weather, winter emergencies, and power outages are more frequent. This means that many families may turn to alternative sources of heat. Things like fireplaces, gas appliances, leaky furnaces and boilers, however can cause CO to build up in the home, causing illness and even death.

That’s why we wanted to inform our customers about the most common causes symptoms and risk factors of CO poisoning. We’ve also provided some tips on preventing a hazardous leak and proper safety measures for using a standby generator.

Why Is Carbon Monoxide so Deadly to Breathe?

This commonly used gas is colorless, odorless, and silent…yet deadly. It’s particularly dangerous because victims often don’t realize they are being poisoned until it’s too late. It’s particularly dangerous because when a person inhales it, CO replaces the oxygen in the blood. This causes the cells throughout the body to die and eventually causes organs stop working.

According to the CDC, carbon monoxide is the leading cause of poisoning fatalities in the United States. Accidental CO poisoning kills about 430 people every year and causes about 50,000 people to seek emergency medical treatment.

Common Causes of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

  • Leaky furnace or boiler,
  • Faulty gas appliances,
  • Improper installation or a gas fireplace,
  • Clogged flue or chimney.

Illustration showing the causes, symptoms, risk factors and prevention measures for carbon monoxide poisoning.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Exposure

Depending on exposure time and the concentration of CO, symptoms can range from headaches, and dizziness, to nausea, trouble breathing, and loss of consciousness.

Common Risk Factors

People of all ages can be killed by carbon monoxide poisoning, but seniors over the age of 65 are most at risk.

How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

It’s imperative that you take these precautions to protect your home and family.

  • Install CO alarms near the bedrooms and on each floor of your home.
  • Test CO alarms regularly and change the batteries annually.
  • Have a certified HVAC technician inspect and service your system annually.
  • Ensure your appliances are installed correctly and meet local building codes.
  • Never use a portable generator inside your house or garage.
  • Don’t leave a vehicle running inside the garage.
  • Never use a gas stove or oven to heat your home.
  • Don’t use a grill or camping stove inside a closed space.
  • Run kitchen vents or exhaust fans anytime the stove is being used.

Never ignore a CO alarm. If it sounds, go outside immediately and call 911.

Watch this video from the CDC with valuable information for preventing carbon monoxide poisoning.

Recommendations for Safely Running a Generator in Your Home

Standby generators can offer a lot of peace of mind to home and business owners alike. They are reliable sources of energy even in the most extreme temperatures and throughout storms and natural disasters. Backup generators automatically turn on in case of power loss or a power outage.

Backup electricity means that computers, medical equipment, and appliances can keep running even if the area is without power. This also means that you can stay comfortably inside the building or house until the power returns. Yet, because they emit carbon monoxide gas, homeowners and other who use generators, need to practice some straightforward safety measures. These include:

  • Ensuring the generator is in good working order and having it serviced annually. We recommend scheduling a maintenance check for any standby generator during the fall months, before the cold weather arrives.
  • Never run a generator indoors or in an enclosed space, even if a door or window is left open, because the CO exhaust is poisonous. Don’t use a generator in a garage, tent, or camper.
  • Don’t attempt to make a ventilation system for a portable generator in order to use it inside a house or building.
  • Keep the generator outside and far (at least 10 ft.) from the house or building, as well as any open doors or windows, while running.
  • Always have a properly working CO detector with a battery backup in the house or building.

Related article: How to Troubleshoot a Standby Generator When It Won’t Start.

Safe Generator Maintenance, Repair & Installation

The qualified technicians at AQM provide reliable maintenance, repair and installation services for commercial and residential backup generators. Check out our inexpensive annual maintenance plans for generators. Regular testing and repairs will keep the generator working well for longer and help keep your family safe.

Interested in purchasing a generator? You can also rely on us for a wide selection of high-quality products. Talk to one of our experienced techs about installation options that allow you to choose what appliances and equipment will be powered by the generator in case of a power outage.

Learn more about purchase and installation options. Call AQM to schedule a free consultation or request an estimate online.

AQM, Inc.