Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas. You can’t see it – you can’t smell it – but it can poison or kill you. Early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning resemble those of the flu – headaches, dizziness and nausea. Ongoing symptoms can be headaches, tiredness, memory impairment, difficulty in concentrating, difficulty in sleeping, and impairment of vision. Continued exposure to high levels of the gas can cause unconsciousness or death. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that more than 150 people die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning. It is also estimated that thousands of others unknowingly suffer the ill effects of this health hazard in their buildings.
How it it created?
One source of carbon monoxide is the incomplete combustion of fuel gasses. Incomplete combustion can be caused by the lack of an adequate supply of combustion air, improper installation of venting systems, clogged vents, improperly sized burner orifices in some cases, unvented gas appliances. Rusted, cracked, or damaged furnace heat exchangers can also lead to carbon monoxide entering a building. To prevent unnecessary exposure to carbon monoxide, all fuel burning appliances must be properly adjusted and vented, must have an adequate supply of combustion air, and must be maintained in good working order. Only licensed contractors should work on fuel burning appliances.
Install carbon monoxide alarms
The State of California requires all dwellings with gas appliances or attached garages to have carbon monoxide alarms installed within. The California Residential Building Code requires a carbon monoxide alarm on every level of a dwelling, including a finished basement. Alarms are required to be “outside of each separate sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms.” (R315.3) This language is a bit vague – we recommend locating alarms within 10-20 feet of each bedroom door.
Importance of “listed” alarms
Consumer Reports found several “off-brand” carbon monoxide alarms that didn’t work properly. The faulty alarms were not UL listed, which is a requirement of the Residential Code. When buying alarms, make sure they are UL listed.