With the threat of a large 'superstorm' in the Eastern U.S., we are once again reminded of the dangers of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and improper placement of portable gas generators. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the misuse of portable gas generators and related carbon monoxide poisoning killed several people and sickened many others in affected areas of the Southeast U.S. following the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Portable generators do not have exhaust vent systems and should never be operated with basements, crawlspaces, or attached garages since deadly carbon monoxide exhaust gases will enter the home.
The same principle applies for (propane or natural) gas appliances in your home to include gas water heaters, furnaces, ranges/ovens, and fireplaces. When I perform home inspections, I look for defects in gas appliances to include damaged or deteriorated exhaust vent systems and signs of improper combustion which can be potential sources of carbon monoxide poisoning. Symptoms of carbon monoxide gas poisoning includes nausea; dizziness; loss of consciousness; and in extreme cases, death. Unfortunately, carbon monoxide gas is odorless, colorless, and is typically not noticeable until symptoms become evident.
So how does one prevent carbon monoxide gases from entering your home? First of all, if you have any type of (propane or natural) gas appliance in your home, I highly recommend (as I do in my home inspections) that you have carbon monoxide (CO) detectors installed at proper locations in your home per manufacturer specifications. Routine testing of your CO detectors will also be necessary to ensure you're protected through each year. This can be done the same time you check your smoke detectors. In some cases, smoke detectors and CO detectors are combined in the same unit.
Another recommended method for prevention of carbon monoxide poisoning is to have your gas appliance(s) serviced and evaluated by a licensed contractor on an annual basis.
Want to learn more about how to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, check out the following link and information provided by the Centers for Diseases Control (CDC): http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/healthcare/a/carbonmonox.htm
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