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Preventing Carbon Monoxide in Your Home

When it comes to safety in your home, few things are more important than preventing carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Unfortunately, since it's an odorless and colorless gas, it's not something you can detect yourself. Especially in the winter, when we keep our windows and doors shut, the risk of carbon monoxide building up in your home in the event of a leak can be high. The following tips can help safeguard you and your family.

A finger pushing the button on a CO2 home detector.

  • Install carbon monoxide detectors. Depending on the size of your home, you should have at least one detector on every floor; plus, you should install one close to the bedrooms. Test — and, if necessary, replace — the batteries every month or as recommended by the manufacturer. According to ConsumerSearch, the best carbon monoxide detectors meet Underwriters Laboratory standard UL2034. In addition, they're loud, provide a testing functionality and are interconnected. Some provide a voice alert, which can be helpful to clarify the hazard if you have a smoke and CO detector in one. Note that the sensors on a CO detector usually have a life span of five years, although some may last longer. Most higher-end models will alert you when they need to be replaced.
  • Have your fuel-burning appliances serviced each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that if you have a water heater, heating system, stove, generator or other appliance that burns fuel, you should have it serviced annually by a qualified technician. He or she can detect any issues and make the necessary repairs.
  • Ensure proper ventilation for your gas appliances. The vent pipes should rise slightly, as this will prevent carbon monoxide from escaping through unsealed joints. In addition, keep vents clear of debris, snow and ice, so the gas can escape.
  • Have your chimney swept and serviced each year. A blocked flue will cause CO to back up into your home, and any cracks in the pipe will result in leaks. Have a qualified chimney sweep — preferably one certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America — perform the necessary maintenance.
  • Be mindful when using a gas kitchen range. Using a gas range can elevate CO levels in your kitchen, so always make sure to use the range hood. In addition, double-check that all the burners, as well as the oven, are off when you've finished cooking.
  • Don't use lanterns indoors. Though they can give your home a seasonal look during the winter, lanterns release CO. That's why you should never use them indoors — even during a power outage.
  • Never use a generator inside your home. If you have a portable generator, never run it inside your home, as this will lead to the buildup of CO. If you have a standby generator, make sure it's installed outside in a spot well away from any windows and doors. This will prevent CO from venting into the home.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a very real hazard. But by taking these precautions, keeping your appliances in good condition and installing the right carbon monoxide detectors, you're helping to keep you and your family safe.

Family in the kitchen.

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ECC Monitor: OK