Carbon Monoxide: The Silent Killer

Did you know the threat for carbon monoxide poisoning grows during the winter? That’s because wintertime is when we turn on the furnace to heat our homes, and some people make the mistake of warming up their cars in garages. Here’s what you need to know about carbon monoxide, including three prevention tips.

Because carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas, it is a silent killer that can go undetected. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), carbon monoxide is found in “fumes produced any time you burn fuel in cars or trucks, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges or furnaces.” It can build up in enclosed spaces, poisoning the people and animals who breathe it in.

The CDC says the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can seem like the flu, including upset stomach, vomiting, headache, dizziness, weakness, chest pain and confusion. Inhaling a lot of carbon monoxide can cause you to pass out or, even worse, die, so being poisoned while you’re asleep is a real concern. More than 400 Americans die each year from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning, and every person and animal is at risk.

Here are three ways you can prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in your home:


  • Install carbon monoxide alarms
    To know if you have a carbon monoxide leak in your home, it is best to install a carbon monoxide alarm on each level of the home, especially near bedrooms to alert you, if needed, while sleeping. The alarms should be installed at least 15 feet away from your fuel-burning appliances. You should regularly test the carbon monoxide alarm, and check the owner’s manual or manufacturer’s label to know how often to replace them (typically every five to seven years). You can purchase battery-operated or battery backup alarms as well as combination smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
  • Schedule an HVAC maintenance appointment
    An HVAC technician will clean your system (including the furnace) and inspect it for issues, including a carbon monoxide leak. It is important to keep up on this regular maintenance for the life of your system and your family’s safety.
  • Schedule other important home maintenance
    It is a good idea to have any other appliances that burn gas, oil or coal checked by a professional each year (including checking for proper ventilation) as well as your chimney checked or cleaned.


If the carbon monoxide alarm goes off, you and your family should go outside immediately or at least open a window or door to get some fresh air. Once you are safe, call 911 for emergency help and follow their instructions.

You can also get carbon monoxide poisoning from your vehicle, so make sure you have the exhaust checked every year to avoid a buildup in the car, and you should also never run your car inside a garage.

Being informed about carbon monoxide poisoning and taking these steps to prevent it will go a long way in keeping your family safe. For more tips on preventing carbon monoxide poisoning in your home or to schedule an HVAC maintenance appointment, contact Stiles Heating, Cooling, & Plumbing.

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