How to Tell if Carbon Monoxide is Present in Your Home

A smoke and carbon monoxide detector on the ceiling.
  • 1-8 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 20-100

Carbon monoxide is a deadly gas that can be generated in your own home without your knowledge. It is odorless, colorless, and tasteless, which makes it very difficult to detect. Appliances such as space heaters, gas stoves, furnaces, heaters, and refrigerators can all emit CO if poorly ventilated. A gas leak can also be a major cause of carbon monoxide emission. Even though carbon monoxide detectors are standard in most home nowadays, it is still important to recognize any signs and symptoms of CO leaks in case your detector has problems. The following will provide you a guide to what you need to know.

Step 1 - Inspect the High-risk Areas

Because of carbon monoxide's nature, it is very difficult to detect. You can take the first step by looking for some of the factors that lead to CO emission. Make sure all appliances in your home are well-ventilated. Using appliances in an enclosed space can lead to dangerous emissions. An idling car, for example, can fill up your garage with carbon monoxide, which can rapidly spread to your home.

Step 2 - Examine the Symptoms

person with a headache

People affected by CO generally show flu-like symptoms, or indigestion, headache, nausea, and light-headedness. This is another reason why most people do not make the connection with carbon monoxide. If all the members of the household have similar symptoms, and feel better when they are away from home, this could be an indication of carbon monoxide inside. Look for other signs in your home that can indicate risk factors.

Step 3 - Look Around Your Home

There are some reliable indicators that should draw your attention to the presence of carbon monoxide. A stale, stuffy smell in a clean home is a warning sign. If you notice a burning smell, this is also a red flag. The smell may not be from carbon monoxide itself, but from other toxic gases being emitted by malfunctioning equipment. Excessive moisture on windows and walls, especially if they are close to a fuel-burning appliance, is also an indicator. However, the condensation could also be the result of excessive moisture in your home, so you need to rule out other possibilities before you can conclude that it is a carbon monoxide leak.

If you have a pilot light on your gas stove, observe it for inconsistencies. If it continually goes out, it could be malfunctioning and emitting carbon monoxide. If the flames and pilot light on your gas stove are always blue and they are turning yellow, have it checked out. Be alert and on the watch for the smell of natural gas when you turn on a fuel-burning appliance. If there is a buildup of soot or chalk-like powder in your chimney or fireplace vent, get a professional to come and clean it.

Step 4 - Remedial Measures

If you see any of the above warning signs, and if members of your household are feeling unwell, immediately seek medical attention. A blood test will confirm or negate the presence of carbon monoxide in your body. Also, consult your fuel supplier for an inspection of the appliances in your home. This will help you detect anything that is leaking or has been improperly installed.