The Silent Killer

There is a killer on the loose, and he may be inside your home. His name is Carbon Monoxide. At GAMA Air we really care about our neighbors in Beverly Hills, Culver City, Mar Vista, Miracle Mile, Hollywood, West Hollywood, Los Angeles, West Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Marina Del Rey, Pacific Palisades, Brentwood, Bel Air, Westwood, Downtown Los Angeles, Vernon, Huntington Park, Sherman Oaks, Encino and the surrounding area, so we’re taking a moment to discuss this serious theme.

Carbon Monoxide (or “CO” for its molecular structure) is odorless, tasteless and invisible, but at high levels it can kill a person in just minutes. And thus it is known as ‘The Silent Killer’. According to a report from the Colorado State University, over 500 people die each year due to CO poisoning, making it the leading cause of poisoning death. About 1/3 of those deaths are caused by a fuel burning heating system.

So where does CO come from? What are the symptoms of CO Poisoning? How can you protect your family?

How could Carbon Monoxide get into my home?

First, Where does CO come from? Carbon monoxide is produced whenever a fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood or charcoal is burned. A properly functioning burner, using any of such fuels, has efficient combustion and produces very little CO. However, if the burner is out-of-adjustment it can produce life-threatening amounts of CO without any visible warning signs. When heating (and cooking) appliances are not working properly or are used incorrectly, dangerous levels of CO can collect in your home.

A properly functioning heating system will vent the combustion gases out of your home. But accumulation of these gases can also occur when a blocked chimney, rusted heat exchanger or broken chimney connector pipe prevents all the combustion gases from being exhausted. CO also can enter the home from an idling car or from a lawnmower or generator engine operating in the garage.

Perhaps you have read our 10-part series on making your home more energy efficient. After making improvements that result in a tighter, more energy efficient house, there could be more opportunity for CO to build up if your gas-burning appliances are not venting properly. So if you have gas- or oil-fired appliances, such as a boiler, furnace, water heater, clothes dryer, or even a stove/oven and have recently sealed air leaks in your home, please call a qualified heating service company to check that the combustion fumes are being properly vented. Here at GAMA Air we would be happy to help. Give our office a call at (310) 651-6936, or use our online form to request a visit.

An additional word of caution: Winter time brings winter storms that may result in power outages. And with that comes the need for temporary measures to heat your home. Whatever you do, ALWAYS follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for any portable heating unit you use in your home. Besides observing fie safety rules, make sure there is good ventilation. Never use these items in a closed room. You may be tempted to close windows to keep the heat in, but you must keep doors open throughout the house, and open a window for fresh air. And NEVER use clothes dryers, ovens, or outdoor appliances such as barbeque grills or construction style heaters to heat your home. Better safe than sorry, and that means better to be not quite as warm as you would like to be than to be dead!

What are symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning?

The initial symptoms of CO poisoning may make you think you have the flu but without a fever. At low (but unsafe) levels they include headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea. At slightly higher levels symptoms include dizziness, vomiting, disorientation, and loss of consciousness. If you seem to have one or more of these symptoms try going outside. If you feel better, but then the symptoms return when you go back inside, you may have CO poisoning.

Stay tuned for further information on how to protect your family from the Silent Killer!

Need to ask us a quick question? Visit our Ask an Expert page and post your question along with how we can reach you and our resident HVAC expert will reply quickly!

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