I recently read an article in the OC Register about Carbon Monoxide poisoning in the home. The piece detailed the importance of simple preventative measures every homeowner (or tenant) should take to safeguard their residence against CO leaks. The article resonated deeply with me as I remembered the close call my brother had with a CO leak in his home a few years back.
At the time he lived in a bungalow built in the 1920's - a charming place with most of the original features intact; an ironing board that folded out of a cabinet in the kitchen, antique fixtures, and yes - a radiator-style heater that leaked Carbon Monoxide when turned on. The leak was slow and steady, giving no obvious signs of its existence besides a drowsy, lethargic feeling at night as my brother lay counting sheep. A CO detector had never been installed in the unit, and really, who in their right mind complains about being consistently sleepy at bedtime? This went on unnoticed for months until, one frigid LA winter day (a rarity in itself); he threw frugality to the wind and cranked up the heater mid-day – quickly noticing the drowsy side effects that followed. Needless to say, my brother is lucky to be alive today. Carbon Monoxide poisoning is virtually undetectable by smell or taste. The sad, true truth is that most people who fall asleep with a CO leak in their home don't ever wake up.
The good news is that CO poisoning is completely avoidable when proper home maintenance measures are taken! First thing’s first: if you don’t have a Carbon Monoxide detector in your home, get one! As of 2012, CO detectors are legally required in all single-family, multi-family, attached homes and apartments. Detectors should be checked annually and replaced every five years, no exceptions. If your CO detector goes off, be smart – open windows and doors and let your house breathe. There should be at least one detector per level in the home, preferably on the ceiling or high up on a wall. The reason for this is that most appliances that produce CO also produce heat, which rises and carries the gas upwards. If possible, install a detector near your furnace or chimney flue as these are common sources of leaks. Speaking of chimney flues, it’s a good idea to have these inspected annually. A blocked chimney flue is a sure way to trap CO gas inside your home.