Carbon Monoxide Safety: The Autumn Checklist for a Safe and Comfortable Winter
I know I always write about specific products, but today I’m going to put the spotlight on an issue, instead: Carbon Monoxide Safety. As the weather gets chillier and we start to think about lighting cozy fires and nudging up the temps on our thermostats, it’s time to take the yearly measures to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
This starts with having one or more carbon monoxide detectors in your home. Lots of people have them these days, but there are still surprisingly many gamblers out there who still haven’t made the investment. No sure if you have one? Check your smoke alarms – many of them are now combo units, with carbon monoxide detection built in. But if you discover you’ve been going without, carbon monoxide detectors aren’t expensive, and they’re versatile and easy to come by. You can get fancy with a CO detector that networks with the other alarms in your home, or you can get a simple plug-in unit that plugs right into any power outlet, no hardwiring required. Whichever way you go, just make sure that you have at least one, and the detectors are located near potential CO sources (gas stoves, fireplaces, furnaces, gas-powered dryers, water heaters and attached garages) and your home’s bedrooms/sleeping areas.
Next comes the big test: does your carbon monoxide detector actually work? We recommend testing the alarm monthly, but that isn’t always an indicator of how well the actual detection equipment is working. Manufacturers generally specify how long a unit is good for – don’t hang onto a CO detector that has passed its prime, and if in doubt, stay on the safe side and buy a replacement. And even if you know that your carbon monoxide detectors are still within their recommended life spans, be sure to replace the batteries yearly, or more often if you hear the telltale chirp. We suggest changing the batteries on the same day that you set your clocks back – that way, you’ll be well-powered throughout Fall and Winter, which are crucial times for CO detection.
And last but definitely not least, have your fireplace cleaned and the flue/chimney checked for any signs of cracks, which can allow carbon monoxide that would otherwise be vented safely outside to seep back into your home on its way up the chimney. In addition, have a pro check your furnace and duct work for signs of soot, corrosion, and cracks or holes, any of which can signal a potential CO problem. And when you let your car warm up before leaving for work, make sure that it’s in open air, and not closed in the garage – carbon monoxide from the car’s exhaust can quickly build to dangerous levels, and possibly travel into attached living spaces.
Wow, so many warnings, so little blog space! For the full rundown, check out these Carbon Monoxide FAQs, and have a warm, cozy, and safe season!