All appliances that burn propane, natural gas, wood or heating oil, are potential sources of carbon monoxide (CO) leaks. CO, a colorless, odorless gas, is produced by incomplete combustion of fuel.
A qualified technician can check your heating system for these problems: a cracked heat exchanger, inadequate fresh air, blocked chimneys or flues, or blocked appliance vents.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is a form of slow suffocation. The gas attaches itself to hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in blood. The blood carries less oxygen and the body suffocates. CO poisoning symptoms begin with sluggishness and headache. Later there is dizziness and loss of consciousness.
Although CO poisoning has been getting a lot of publicity lately, the fact is that CO poisoning leading to death is unusual. In fact, in the U.S. (with a population of more than 250 million), there are only 800 to 1,000 people who die from it each year, according to the Mayo Clinic Health Letter.
Nonetheless, if you use any appliance that burns fossil fuel, a CO detector is a good idea. Be sure to buy an Underwriter Laboratories approved detector that has some of the following features:
- An audible alarm.
- Power-on light.
- A manual reset button to silence alarm briefly.
- Test button to verify that it works.