Windows and doors are sealed up tight and home heating in full swing. It’s cozy indoors, perfect for curling up with a cup of tea and a good book by the fire.
Unfortunately, the risk of carbon monoxide buildup is greater now than at any other time of year.
Wintertime brings a higher-than-usual risk for carbon monoxide buildup and poisoning. Most homes that have newer smoke detectors also have a built-in alarm that detects the dangerous gas. But not every house has that level of protection. And in some homes, there’s no protection or detection at all.
Not all home inspector training teaches you to look for carbon monoxide problems. But it’s covered in your ICA School tuition because it’s important. Here’s why.
Carbon Monoxide Is More Dangerous Because It’s Invisible
The majority of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning victims never knew that there was a problem. The gas is colorless, odorless, and tasteless, which means it could be all around you right now. If it is, you’d feel tired and perhaps a bit achy, you might feel nauseated, and a headache would start to bloom. That’s what the Utah Department of Health says about symptoms, which tend to stop once you’re in fresh air again.
The Gas Has Many Potential Sources
There’s no single way to suffer carbon monoxide poisoning. The heart of the issue is ineffective or incomplete combustion. If there’s plenty of ventilation, it’s not a serious problem. CO is produced when you burn kerosene, natural gas, propane, charcoal grills, or an ordinary wood-burning fireplace. Without proper ventilation, the gas builds up instead of dissipating into the air outside.
Winter is Riskier Because Ventilation is Poorer
In the summertime, windows are more likely to swing open and homeowners are less apt to pull the door closed quickly. More fresh air flows through. There’s ventilation from air conditioning, too. But more than that, there’s much less combustion. Gas appliances still function, such as stoves and water heaters. But appliances such as gas furnaces and wood-burning fireplaces are on vacation when the weather is warm.
Preventive Measures Go a Long Way
The best way to handle the risks of CO poisoning is to avoid them altogether. In your work as a certified home inspector, you can offer testing that gives homeowners and buyers peace of mind or alerts them to a problem.
Here are a few prevention tips from The Utah DoH:
- Have HVAC systems serviced once a year.
- If smoke detectors don’t have CO detection, install standalone detectors approved by Underwriters Laboratory.
- Change batteries in all detectors at least twice a year.
- Resetting an alarm once is fine, but if it alarms again soon after, vacate the house and call 911.
- Never use an unvented combustion appliance inside the home or in an attached garage, including generators, stoves, or grills.
- Never leave a running vehicle inside an attached garage unless the garage door is open.
- Never use a gas oven for home heating.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is no joke. When the gas displaces oxygen in the bloodstream, asphyxiation and ultimately death are the results. Sadly, many people die from CO poisoning every year, especially in winter when homes are sealed up tight. Many of them had no idea that there was a problem.
Your home inspection training can teach you how to find a number of home defects, which helps buyers make an informed decision. But with carbon monoxide testing included in the inspection, you could also save a life.
At ICA School, our goal is to train well-rounded home inspectors for a stronger inspection community and more satisfied customers. If that sounds like the career you want, there’s no better time to get started. Enroll now and go to work in a matter of weeks.