Many of the appliances in our modern homes produce carbon monoxide and we may not even be aware. Even when appliances are functioning normally, when a fuel is burned carbon monoxide is one of the major by products. Appliances that contribute to carbon monoxide levels include:
- gas or oil furnaces
- gas refrigerators
- gas clothes dryers
- gas ranges
- gas water heaters
- gas space heaters
- charcoal grills
- wood burning stoves
Typically, carbon monoxide is likely to vent outside the home when appliances are functioning normally and passages are free from airway blockages. Carbon monoxide levels should remain well below dangerous levels under these conditions. However, with the advancement of energy efficiency in today’s modern homes these conditions need to be properly monitored. With the advancement of energy efficiency comes lower construction tolerances that would otherwise allow air to enter or escape the dwelling. Tighter gaps in your home produces a more efficient structure to heat and cool. This can pose a potential risk in that carbon monoxide polluted air has a more difficult time finding its way outside your home.
Additionally appliances can age over time and produce more carbon monoxide than intended. Examples of these types of issues are cracked furnace heat exchangers, blocked vents, inadequate air supply for gas appliances, slow range hood exhaust fans, lent in gas dryer vent hoses and clogged bathrooms fans can all add to carbon monoxide in homes.
Your first round of defense is to install one or more carbon monoxide detectors, typically near sleeping areas as recommended by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Adding additional detectors on each level of a home provide increased chances of warning of high carbon monoxide levels. Be sure to choose a detector with a loud audible alarm and one that has passed Underwriters Laboratories Inc. testing. Battery powered detectors are the most common choice as they continue to operate in the event of a power outtage, but you can install detectors that wire into your home’s electrical system.
Be sure to have your gas appliances inspected and measured with professional equipment for carbon monoxide leaks on an annual basis. This will help identify and eliminate sources of undue carbon monoxide before it becomes a health issue.