Carbon Monoxide Detectors Save Lives

Do you have a CO detector in your home?  If you said yes, have you tested it this year?  If no, then stop reading this and go to your local home improvement store and purchase two of them.  The lives of your family are priceless and CO detectors cost approximately $25.00 each.  For $50.00 you can stop a silent killer.

What is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a gas that is produced when natural gas, propane, gasoline, oil, charcoal, coal, wood or any other combustible material is burned.  CO is extremely dangerous and impossible to see or smell.  When you are in an enclosed building, home, garage or car, CO levels can rise very rapidly and reach dangerous levels very quickly.

Why is CO Harmful?

When you breathe in CO it is absorbed into the bloodstream and displaces the oxygen in your blood.  After a period of time it can cause permanent brain damage or death.  CO is very dangerous because you can’t see or smell it.  Symptoms of CO poisoning are a lot like the flu.  You may feel tired, dizzy or you may pass out and become unconscious.  If someone becomes sick and you suspect CO, go outside for fresh air and call 911 from a neighbor’s home or a cell phone.

What Causes you to be Exposed to CO?

Winter is when most CO poisoning incidents happen, because people use heaters, leave cars idling to warm up, and because snow drifts can block vents and tailpipes.  Poisoning can happen when:

  • A furnace, gas stove or water heater is faulty or installed improperly.
  • The outside vent to a fuel-burning appliance becomes covered with snow.
  • A fireplace chimney or stove pipe becomes clogged or blocked.
  • A charcoal grill is used indoors.
  • A car or gas-powered snow- or leaf-blower is left running in a closed garage.
  • A car is running while parked with snow blocking the tailpipe.

With electric heaters and appliances, you do not need to worry about CO.

What Happens During Poisoning?

Both children and adults can become very ill and even die within minutes or hours of exposure, depending on the level.  Pregnant women, their unborn children, babies, heavy smokers, and people with anemia, heart or lung disease may be affected more quickly or seriously.  Symptoms and effects vary between individuals, even at the same level of CO exposure, but people typically experience flu-like symptoms, including: dizziness, fatigue, weakness, headache or vomiting, trouble breathing, confusion, ringing in the ears, heart fluttering, gastrointestinal complaints, increased blood pressure, or bright red or pink skin, mucous membranes or nails.

However, death from CO poisoning can result even if none of these symptoms occur first.  In some cases, people fall unconscious before ever feeling ill.

Some CO poisoning survivors have described drifting in and out of consciousness, but being completely immobilized and unable to get themselves out of the area.

How Many People Die from CO Exposure?

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, 1,500 Americans die each year from accidental exposure to CO, and there are more than 10,000 injuries each year.  Although most CO poisoning happens during a one-time sudden incidence, it is possible to suffer fro chronic CO poisoning.  This is when someone is exposed to low levels over weeks or months (for instance, due to a faulty oil-burning furnace), and experience symptoms over that time.

How Can You Prevent Exposure?

It’s important to have your fuel-burning appliances inspected by a qualified professional at least once each year.  But the most important thing you can do it to have a CO detector in your home.  When a sleeping 10-year old girl died in her home last year because a snow drift blocked an outside vent, the state of Massachusetts passed “Nicole’s Law,” requiring all residential buildings to be equipped with CO detectors.  Other states have passed similar laws.  How do detectors work?  CO detectors, which can be purchased at most hardware stores, can be hardwired, battery-operated or plugged in.

Most beep when levels have been at 70 ppm for an hour, or sooner if levels are higher.  Although symptoms usually go unnoticed at that level, if the alarm sounds, immediately open windows and doors for ventilation, leave your home and call 911 immediately before symptoms or unconsciousness occur.

Detecting CO

  • When buying a CO detector, check for the UL approved label.
  • Digital display models show the CO level, rather than simply beeping.
  • Install CO detectors in a central area on every floor and near sleeping areas.
  • Detectors should be placed at least five feet above the ground, as CO rises.
  • Hard-wired and plug-in models won’t work during a power outage.
  • Like smoke detectors, batteries need to be replaced each year.
  • CO detectors lose sensitivity over time and should be replaced every five years.

In an emergency, or for more information, call the Illinois Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.


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24 Responses to “Carbon Monoxide Detectors Save Lives”

  1. Azieme says:

    Thank you for the article, this in it self will help keep people safe, I went out and purchased 3 detectors myself for our new town home. We have a new furnace and my wife didn’t think we needed it so I had her read this and she said what are you waiting for, go buy them.

  2. Tom Weller says:

    Thanks for the info, I didn’t think about my CO detectors, we had them in our old house that we sold 2 years ago and I didn’t think about my new house. I walked around the house and the furnace room and I didn’t find any so off to Home Depot I went. I also called my mom and dad as well as my sister and reminded them to do the same, you never can be to safe with your loved ones and your furnace should also get a tune up.

  3. Josh says:

    Thanks for the info, I had a cracked furnace and my CO detector is what prompted me to call you. The furnace was inspected by a home inspector but he missed the cracks, thank God for CO detectors and Four Seasons Heating of Chicago land.

  4. Flint says:

    What is the best carbon monoxide detector made I need a brand and model number. We live in Orland Park and would also like to buy a new energy star furnace that gets the tax credit of 1500 dollars. Do any of these units come with a built in CO detector and what brand is the best we are looking at trane Lennox York Carrier Bryant Rheem and several others some brands I never have seen untill I started my research such as Armstrong Goodman Tappan Maytag Frigidare and Rudd who has the best prices in Chicago and do we need a permit if we live in cook county and can any company repair our heating furnace.

  5. Larry 345 says:

    My wife told me to do some research on this because one of her co-worker’s husband became sick at work from CO and she was worried about me I work as a Diesel mechanic and we have trucks running inside all day. I guess her co-workers husband had been exposed to it for a long time then he became sick. What can I do at work? Will a home detector work or are they only for a furnace used to heat your home.

  6. Jordan says:

    What a small price to pay for safety. I never had any idea how dangerous this can be, I have never had my furnace cleaned before and this article has made me very aware and I will make sure I do it every year.

  7. [...] — Tags: Carbon Monoxide, furnaces, Safety — markrasmussen @ 6:01 am There is a rather exhaustive article on a local contractor web site regarding Carbon Monoxide [...]

  8. Darin says:

    Does any company offer a combination smoke and CO detector or natural gas. Why don’t furnaces have this built in.

  9. Henry says:

    Will a detector go off if it is to close to my furnace and will it be better if I put it in the hall way and put one upstairs.

  10. Quintin says:

    Were can I find a UL rated CO detector that has a built in natural gas detector for my utility room I have a furnace and gas dryer .Some people told me I need a Co detector for my room that has a fire place is that true or is one enough for the house the guy at home depot said 1 is fine .Also my furnace has a wierd smell the first time we turned it on what causes that .

  11. Sue says:

    We have had a CO detector for around 5 years, we were talking with a friend of ours who said that eventually the sensor in the CO detector goes bad and we should replace it, is that true? I would like to get a new furnace also and was wondering with a new furnace do we have to still use a detector?

  12. Dave Musial says:

    @Josh
    We are glad we could help, thank you for your business.

  13. Dave Musial says:

    @Quintin
    You should have one for each floor of the home and I would keep one in the hallway, close to your bedrooms.

  14. Dave Musial says:

    @Darin
    Yes you can find the best deal at Walmart.

  15. Dave Musial says:

    @Flint
    The best detector made that’s a tricky one. Go with one that is UL rated and you will be very happy with it. No one makes a built in CO detector in their furnace but that’s not a bad idea.

    If you are looking for a furnace that qualifies for the tax credit, Lennox has a few different models, look on our web site at fourseasons-chicago.com under furnaces for more info. Any licensed company can service and install your furnace .

  16. Go Green says:

    Its great to protect you and your family when heating your home remember to check your detectors batteries as well.

  17. Randy says:

    Do you service Oak Lawn IL, we have an old furnace that needs repairs. Our home heating bills are also high, would a new furnace lower our gas bill? All or most of the homes in Oak Lawn are about the same age and the furnaces are geting old, do you need a permit in Oak lawn to install a new furnace?

  18. Kandy says:

    We have a large home in Barrington IL with 6 furnaces can we install a zone system on each furnace? Will the Barrington building dept require a furnace permit and were can I find the codes for Barrington? We would also like a new hot water boiler for our garage heat as well as a new boiler for our pool, can all this work go under one permit for Barrington?

  19. D.T says:

    If I buy a new furnace do I still need a co detector or can I do without one? What is the chance that a new furnace will give off co and how much should a new furnace cost me?

  20. Larry M says:

    Thanks for the reminder and I have a question, I live in Chicago and my home heating bills go up every year, could it be my furnace or is the gas company just raising the rates?

  21. Dane h says:

    We have a tri level home in Oak Lawn and have an old furnace our co detector went off and we called out nicor gas . They said are furnace was ok and that it was a false alarm . I have a cousin who is a oak lawn fir man and he came over and found the furnace had a co level of 25 ppm. What could be the cause the furnace heats our home good and we have not had many repair issues. What will four seasons heating charge me to look at it and do you service oak lawn?

  22. Franz says:

    Our home has 4 levels and 2 furnaces for heating our home, we have had no repairs as of yet. How many carbon monoxide detectors do I need? Also we moved here from Chicago and our heating bills have gone up, our new home is in oaklawn and the gas bill is much more. Could it be that peoples gas is a lot cheaper than nicor gas and should we call oak lawn and tell them that we are paying too much? I’m a senior on a fixed income and my furnace is killing me.

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