Alert Heating & Cooling, Inc.: Carbon Monoxide, the silent killer

Carbon Monoxide, or CO, is called the silent killer because it is an odorless gas. It is produced when fuels are burned. Natural gas, propane, wood, coal, fuel oil, diesel, gasoline, and even charcoal all produce carbon monoxide during the burn process. Some of your household appliances produce CO: Gas forced air furnaces, boilers, water heaters (unless electric), stoves, dryers, space heaters, pool heaters, fireplaces, and generators. Even a running car engine in an enclosed space can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. When these appliances are working correctly, the fumes are normally vented out of your home.

Certain circumstances can put the occupants of a house at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. The most common are a blocked chimney, a cracked furnace heat exchanger, or lack of combustion air to an appliance. The danger is magnified if the combustion is not correctly vented.

Even small amounts of CO can have terrible health effects on people. Some of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headache, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, confusion, and blurred vision. Higher amounts of poisoning can lead to lack of consciousness and even death.

A common question is how much CO does it take to make someone sick. It affects people differently, but any CO reading over 1 part per million is an unsafe amount. Everyone gets a very small exposer everyday with simple tasks like cooking on a gas stove or walking around a running vehicle.

To be safe in your own home, you should have a carbon monoxide detector. When you purchase a CO detector, my best suggestion is do not buy the cheapest one. Spending a little extra money could save your life. If you have a CO detector and it is over 15 years old, it is time to replace it. The one that I personally have the best experience with is Nighthawk, made by Kiddie. I like a model that has a digital readout, 120 volt with battery backup and a single function device. You can usually pick these up at your local hardware for just under $50, a small price to pay for the job it does.

One detector is usually sufficient because CO travels much faster than smoke or fire. I suggest it be located near sleeping people, on an interior wall, a place where it is less likely to get fresh air.

In the US carbon monoxide kills a little over 400 people a year. If every house had a CO detector that number could be significantly reduced. CO detectors are now required for rental properties in all the Downriver cities that have rental inspection.

If you do not have a CO detector, get a good one and read the instructions (even the men).

For more information on CO detectors or HVAC installation or repair contact Alert Heating & Cooling (located at 3971 Fort St., Lincoln Park, MI 48146) at 313-381-2665 or visit


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