Carbon Monoxide Testing
If you do anything for yourself, you should have a monitor in your home for testing carbon monoxide. This odorless, tasteless, and invisible gas is deadly. Remember that combustion, whether from a furnace or fireplace is not 100% efficient. Therefore, any such appliance could pose a serious, if not deadly risk with carbon monoxide. Although low levels of this gas are hard to detect, creating problems such as headache, muscle ache, or flu-like symptoms. High levels can kill.
Because carbon monoxide has become such as serious problem, new ordinances have been passed in which new homes in some states with gas or oil-fired furnaces are required to have a carbon monoxide detector. Sadly, homes are not the only places at risk. For instance, hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and business can also be affected by carbon monoxide. In fact, the dollar cost for people hospitalized with poisoning from this gas has reached a staggering $33 million in Canada alone.
Even if you do not suspect carbon monoxide in your home, you should still have a simple, plug-in device that can test for the gas. These detectors are inexpensive and sold at home improvement, hardware, and retail stores. With this, you plug it into a standard 110-volt electrical outlet and if the detector picks up dangerous levels of gas, a shrill alarm would awaken the family so they can immediately get outside to fresh air.
The problem with carbon monoxide is that it is hard to detect without testing. Typically, exhaust gases filter out a chimney flue and to the outside on a fireplace in proper working order. However, if the flue is not working right, the cases filter back into the home. Known as spillage or back drafting, this process is dangerous. Therefore, if your have an older home or if you believe your fireplace is not operating as it should, you can also have a professional come into to test for carbon monoxide.
To give you an idea of how serious carbon monoxide poisoning is, 15 older homes were selected randomly to be tested for carbon monoxide. Six of those homes had areas of depressurization in the wood or pellet stove, or fireplace. Another test took 58 homes that had combustion appliances. The test in this case showed that five had poor zones of depressurization. Obviously, these homes would be considered at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning.
The key is to make sure ductwork in the home is sealed and that homes with forced-air systems have pressure relief grilles installed going between the registers and bedrooms. In addition, if you purchase a new furnace or hot water heater, make sure you stay away from the naturally vented designs, choosing appliances that have power venting or a combustion path instead. Remember, carbon monoxide is nothing to mess with and serious problems require the assistance of a professional for your home and family's safety.