If it gets into your home, Carbon Monoxide (CO) is harmful to you and your family, so take the proper precautions to help avoid it.
Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips
To help keep your home and family safe, start with these CO safety tips we gathered from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Know Your Risks
Any appliance that requires fuel to operate, such as furnaces, fireplaces, and portable generators, produces CO. If gas-powered equipment is properly maintained and vented, the colorless exhaust poses no danger — but if not, inhaling CO can result in serious health issues, from headaches and dizzy spells to chest pains and shortness of breath, according to Poison Control. If you or a family member experience any symptoms of CO poisoning, seek medical attention immediately.
Keep Your Vents Clear
Many gas-powered household appliances, like furnaces and fireplaces, are designed to effectively disperse CO through vents in your chimney. However, vents and flues can get blocked by fallen tree limbs and leaves. Make sure debris isn't obstructing your outside stack or chimney vents to ensure that CO is safely released from your furnace and fireplace.
Schedule Regular Maintenance
Relying on a qualified technician to install and maintain your fuel-burning appliances can help ensure that your vents are functioning properly. If you have any of the following household gas appliances, make sure to have a certified professional perform maintenance and an inspection at least once per year:
Use Fuel-Burning Equipment Properly
When using your gas-powered appliances, proper ventilation is critical to helping decrease the risk of CO poisoning, so make sure to follow the instructions according to the manufacturer's specifications. The CDC recommends never using a charcoal grill, hibachi, lantern, or portable camping stove inside your home, tent, or camper — even starting your car in the garage with the door closed isn’t a good idea. In the event of a power outage, you should keep your generator outside at least twenty feet away from your house and monitor CO using a battery-powered CO detector.
Keep Your Fireplace Clean and Well-Vented
If you have a wood-burning fireplace or stove, make sure you keep it clean and that the flue is working properly. It’s also a good idea to keep the flue open — even as the last embers of your fire are smoldering out — to let the gasses escape effectively. You should also have your chimney checked and cleaned every year to prevent debris from blocking your vents and allowing CO to build up.
Use Vehicle Precautions
The exhaust system of your car or truck is an essential part of any vehicle, but it also produces CO. That’s why it’s important to make sure your vehicle’s exhaust system is in good working order. Regularly checking and maintaining the exhaust system is key to helping avoid a buildup of CO inside your car, which can be extremely dangerous. To ensure that your car’s exhaust system is in tip-top shape, it’s best to have it checked annually by a certified mechanic. A professional can spot any potential problems, such as small leaks, and make sure that everything is running smoothly. It’s also important to be aware of how and where you use your car — running it inside a garage, even with the door open, isn’t a good idea. CO from the exhaust can still be pulled into the car or SUV, so it’s best to pull the vehicle out of the garage whenever it’s idling.
If you have an SUV or car with a tailgate, make sure to open the windows before the tailgate so CO from the exhaust doesn’t get blown into the vehicle where it can get trapped.
Install CO Alarms and Listeners
To add an extra layer of protection to your home, install a Ring Alarm smoke and carbon monoxide detector. Ring Alarm systems allow you to receive real-time notifications on your phone when smoke or carbon monoxide is detected. If you have a Ring Alarm, you can also place smoke alarm and CO listeners near each of your existing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to get alerts whenever smoke or CO are detected. If an alarm goes off when you’re not home, you’ll get a notification on your Ring App. With a Ring Protect Pro subscription, your listeners can also automatically notify a professional monitoring team to request emergency responders to your home.
Maintain Your CO Devices
Keep in mind that CO alarms need to be maintained regularly to help ensure uninterrupted operation. Test and change your detector’s batteries on a regular basis, and keep a supply of extras on hand in the event of a multi-day power outage. You should also clean your devices frequently, removing visible dust with a vacuum.
Enjoy Your Home — And Stay Safe!
Now that you know how to take the proper precautions to keep your home safe from carbon monoxide, you can enjoy your home with peace of mind that your family and guests are protected.
If you want to help keep your entire neighborhood safe — not just your family and friends — download the Neighbors App. You can share safety information about carbon monoxide or fires to let your community know what to watch out for. You can also access helpful tips and reminders from the Neighbors Team, which can serve as periodic reminders to check your detector batteries or clean your chimney. Download the free Neighbors App today to find essential safety information from your area.