carbon monoxide poisoning & detector

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning – Do You Have These Symptoms?

carbon monoxide poisoning & detector
Carbon Monoxide Detector

Carbon Monoxide is Poisonous, Odorless, Silent, Colorless, and Tasteless.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning may be occurring Right Now and you may not know it until it’s too late – possibly while you are sleeping.

Do you have a Wood Stove? Pellet Stove? Oil, Natural Gas, or LP Propane heating system?

If the combustion or venting is inadequate, leaking, or of poor quality, you could be experiencing Carbon Monoxide poisoning.

Here’s what you need to know!
Get yourself a Carbon Monoxide Detector!

The best First Alert carbon monoxide detector

How Does Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Happen?

Carbon Monoxide is produced whenever a combustible fuel is burned. The amount produced depends on the fuel and the quality of the burn or combustion. A poor burn or improper ventilation will build up a high concentration of Carbon Monoxide in the home.

You can’t smell it, so you won’t know that it’s happening.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon Monoxide in high concentrations, starves the oxygen from bodily tissues.
This could lead to seizure, coma, and fatality.

Preliminary Symptoms

Muscle aches
Shortness of breath

How Many People Die or Treated Each Year?

In the United States, more than 400 people die each year from accidental Carbon Monoxide poisoning.

Thousands of people each year require emergency treatment.

Dangerous Levels ( PPM ) ?

(parts per million)

It only takes a minuscule amount to harm or kill you. As little as 100 parts per million (ppm) can result in Carbon Monoxide  poisoning and give you a headache after 1-2 hours.

400 ppm can be life threatening after 3 hours.

How is Carbon Monoxide Deadly?

Hemoglobin in the blood carries oxygen from the lung to our organs. But it has an affinity for Carbon Monoxide that is 200 times its affinity for oxygen!

So it gets grabbed up first and oxygen gets pushed aside. It stays attached to the hemoglobin for hours, so as it is taken up it begins to saturate the blood.

Eventually (quickly) NO OXYGEN can be taken up and transported to the cells of our organs, and they begin to die.

Will Carbon Monoxide Accumulate Downstairs or Upstairs?

Carbon Monoxide is a gas that weighs slightly less than air.

It will tend to rise and accumulate more upstairs in a home if the heating system is malfunctioning.

However, the first floor is still vulnerable under the same circumstances!

New Construction Modern ‘Tight’ Homes

Back in the “Old Days” the houses were not constructed as ‘tight’ as they are today. Basically, they leaked air like crazy, which is why old houses took so much energy too heat.

In most old houses, more than half of the heat loss was from cold air leaking in. Carbon Monoxide could not build up as quickly inside.

With newer ‘tight’ construction, less infiltration (leakage) means that gases can build up inside, and Carbon Monoxide can concentrate if a source is there.

How To Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

A furnace that is not completely and efficiently burning all of its fuel (poor combustion) will produce excess Carbon Monoxide. Regular service is advised.

Furnaces with air-intake filters can clog, causing poor fuel combustion and high Carbon Monoxide levels. Periodically check the air intake.

Furnaces with improper venting (including wood stoves) will release high amounts of Carbon Monoxide into the living area.

Prevention is the key to survival.
Preventing Carbon Monoxide poisoning is a three step process.

1. Proper Venting
2. Ensure Good Combustion
3. Carbon Monoxide Detector

Detection can only be trusted to a quality Carbon Monoxide detector. Every home should have at least one. Best to have one on each level of the home.

Particularly during the winter months, please consider protecting your family from the unthinkable. Just like a home smoke alarm, a Carbon Monoxide detector could save your life!

Related: Dual Sensor Smoke Alarm – Why They Are The Best

Best Place To Mount Carbon Monoxide Detector

A likely place to be caught off guard for Carbon Monoxide poisoning is while you’re sleeping in the bedroom. Keep one within earshot of where you sleep.

One on each floor of your home

Most Carbon Monoxide detectors simply plug into a wall outlet (with a built-in battery backup). So don’t worry about high up on a wall or lower to the floor. Most outlets are near the floor. That’s good enough. Just have one!

Shelf Life? Do They Expire?

IMPORTANT: Carbon Monoxide detectors (and smoke detectors) have a shelf life! This varies between 5 and 10 years depending on the manufacturer. Many will have a date on the back or inside (the battery compartment).

Related: Caution: Smoke Detectors Have A Shelf Life

I remember last year when my Carbon Monoxide detector let out a loud chirp, and then later on again… I checked to discover that it was six years old (end of shelf life?). There was no indication on the digital screen of a any detected Carbon Monoxide level (ppm was ‘000’), so I figured that it was flaking out due to its age. So I ordered two of the latest replacements.

This is important folks. If you don’t have one of these, you should consider it:

The most popular and best reviewed on Amazon:
First Alert Carbon Monoxide Detector


  1. True about the affinity for the hemoglobin to attract the CO molecules and they let go slowly. First treatment is removal from the environment second is oxygen (if available) as some of it will attach. As time progresses more of it will attach. Capillary refill can be another symptom.

    Unusual or unexpected headache is usually the first clue.

  2. Ken,
    Great reminder article going into the heating season, don’t want to lose anyone to CO poisoning when it can be prevented.

  3. The CO detectors can be used to replace expired smoke detectors. If the CO sets off the alarm, it has a different chirp than the smoke detector portion. Since all of the smoke detectors are wired in together, they all chirp the same as the alarm going off, so you will know if it’s smoke or CO.

    1. Peanut Gallery, Be careful! They do make combo units (CO & Smoke). But a Carbon Monoxide alarm is different from a Smoke alarm.

      1. Thanks Ken, yes we have the combo units. A little pricier than just a smoke detector, but it’s two detectors in one.

  4. Good article Ken! Two months ago, my co-worker and family almost perished because of this,
    was coming from hot water tank connection leak unbeknownst to them while they were getting sicker….my friend felt extreme tiredness, spacey, headache….had no idea, the next morning, GS was out of it, they took him to ER, diagnosis carbon monoxide poisoning was hospitalized for a couple days….I think the fire dept. came and checked things and aired out the house for however long necessary…and of course got the connection fixed…if they stayed in that house one more day, would have lost them all…so thankful they found out, Mercy…

  5. We put these all over our new farmhouse. Different kinds, some combo, some plain smoke detector and plain CO2. Don’t want. all my eggs in one basket….

  6. Just ordered three – for my home and two kids homes. Several years ago a coworker came into my office and found me unconscious due to a CO2 leak from the local utility. He dragged me outside and I quickly recovered.

    I learned to always have a detector and also to not go into work at 4:00 am. :)

  7. I read that smoke detectors also need to be replaced every so often. I once thought they lasted forever but evidently not. I can’t remember the reason how they lose their effectiveness over time.

    1. INPrepper,
      Depends on the type of detector, but for the most part the ‘gas sensor’ in the CO alarm has a limited life. Remember those beepers you carry in the oil patch?? They are only good for two years max and should then be replaced.(n0t just the H2S you mentioned, but also the CO, O2 and combustible gas monitors too) Normally the battery life will usually exceed the effective sensor life. Its a chemistry thing within the sensor. Plain jane smoke detectors have their own issues. For me, I run combo smoke/CO detectors, hardwired together with battery backup. I’ve lost too many friends underground, and above ground, and nearly lost my own life due to CO. Never again.

  8. I never thought much about detectors years ago until I started working in the oilfield. On many jobs we had to have personal H2S monitors that we carried all the time when on the job site. It was there I realized that an invisible gas in high enough concentrations could cause instant death from one breath with no possibility of recovery. So I take this stuff very seriously even though it might not be on the forefront of our minds.

  9. We have CO detectors in the cabin and horse trailer .,., tightly enclosed areas……. especially.after PW’s episode.
    None in the house, but I need to.
    And four of the six hard wired fire alarms need replaced too

    1. Joe C,
      Just replace the fire alarms with CO/smoke alarms. new ones all tie together with 3 wires + ground. They alarm and talk! no kidding, some woman starts yelling ” fire! fire!” or ” Warning Carbon Monoxide Detected!’ with intermittent piercing beeping. Once one alarms, they all go off all over the house. Enough to drive you, the family and the dog outside until you figure out what is going on. But that is what you need! If you look online the Kidde detectors go for about $35 a pop. Do one a month if you have to, but do it! I don’t want to go to no more funerals because of CO. ( and we’d hate to lose your voice here too.)

      1. Lol,MJ
        Planning on doing that..,..
        Ohh the dogs go crazy with the ‘chirp’
        Thanks, man

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