The Gift that Keeps on Giving

By Diane Tait

Image courtesy of flickr
With the holiday shopping season in full swing, I thought I’d make a gift suggestion that you may not have considered.  While most people scour the Internet looking for deals on toys, the latest electronics and gizmos galore, I came up with one that probably hasn’t crossed your mind: A carbon monoxide alarm.  While nearly every home has a smoke detector designed to warn them in case of fire, precious few have a CO alarm.  Every bit as deadly as smoke, carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless and just as toxic. 

The CDC reports that hundreds of Americans die every year from carbon monoxide poisoning.  What’s even worse is the symptoms associated with CO poisoning can easily be misconstrued as those of a cold or the flu.  Everything from persistent headache and/or dizziness to nausea, upset stomach, vomiting, lethargy, disorientation and even chest pains can be experienced by those exposed to carbon monoxide.  Of course, that’s only in victims who inhale CO while awake.  If a person exposed to carbon monoxide while they sleep, chances are they’ll never awaken in time to have their symptoms assessed, since CO toxicity kills quickly and quietly.

While the elderly and young children have the least tolerance to carbon monoxide, nobody is immune from this silent killer.  Yearly, more than 400 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning and more than 4,000 are hospitalized.  This says nothing for family pets who quickly succumb to the gas.  Those who have breathing issues such as asthma, anyone experiencing anemia or people with heart disease are even more susceptible to CO poisoning than healthy people.  Saddest of all is the fact that in many cases, those poisoned by carbon monoxide unleashed the deadly gas on themselves unwittingly.

Image courtesy of A&B Insurance
While everyone knows if you forget to turn the ignition off on your car when you park it in the garage it will result in deadly levels of CO in your home.  But what most people don’t realize is that there are more insidious ways to accidentally introduce carbon monoxide into your dwelling:

      1.      If your house uses gas to cook with or heat your home, you need to have your gas appliances inspected yearly.  If your drier or refrigerator uses gas to operate, you need to have them inspected as well.  In short, anything in your home that burns gas also has the ability to spew CO.

      2.      While sitting by a fireplace with a roaring fire is a time cherished winter pastime, if your flu becomes blocked or the chimney get filled with creosote, there is the potential for carbon monoxide to back up into your home.  If it’s been years since you’ve had your fireplace inspected and your chimney cleaned, don’t wait until it’s too late.

      3.      If you smell an odor coming from any of your gas appliances when they are off, call for a service technician immediately and evacuate the premises. 

      4.      One of the keys to preventing CO poisoning is proper ventilation.  The chief problems with ventilation is that it can become blocked or spring a leak that would start venting CO into your home the minute a gas appliance starts up.

      5.      If you do detect a leak or a crack in a ventilation pipe, this isn’t something you can fix with duct tape. 

Image courtesy of pixabay
      6.      Speaking of starting up, never start gas-powered tools like leaf blowers, lawn mowers, chainsaws and/or portable generators inside the garage.  Always make sure when you do use a portable generator that the unit is place far enough away from your home so the exhaust can’t find a way back into it. (A minimum of 20-feet away is recommended by the CDC.

      7.      Another thing some people do when Hurricanes pass through North Florida is to use camp stoves or barbecues to cook with until the power comes back on.  While this allows you to perk some coffee and serve hot food, for goodness sakes wait until the rain has passed so you can take them outdoors.  Firing up a camp stove or grill in a garage is one of the quickest way to introduce CO into your home, even with the garage door open.

      8.      If you experience a power failure in the dead of winter, never, ever use your gas stove or oven to heat your home.  Even flameless chemical heaters can give off carbon monoxide.  Always read and heed the warning labels on any portable heater or cooker you consider using indoors.

Image courtesy wikimedia
Did you know your vehicle can become a deathtrap if you don’t maintain the exhaust system properly.  A small hole or crack in the exhaust pipe or muffler is all it takes to turn your car into a gas chamber.

      10.  If someone you know is showing signs of carbon monoxide toxicity, you need to immediately open all the doors and windows and take everyone into the great outdoors.  Call the fire department and if necessary, call an ambulance so the source can be found and those affected can seek medical attention as soon as possible.  CO can overcome anyone in an enclosed space in minutes.  So, there’s no time to lose.

Since carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless, there is no way for you to detect it other than by purchasing a carbon monoxide detector. For as little as $11.99, you can not only keep your family safe from this deadly peril, you can also add it to your holiday shopping list so you can give your friends and family the gift that keeps on giving.

Diane Tait owns and operates A&B Insurance.  To find out more about how you can save money on renter’s insurance, go to her site or fill out the form at right.


  1. Carbon Monoxide is a silent killer that most people ignore until it harms someone in their family. It's well worth spending a few bucks to get a CO detector installed in your home.

  2. I have one of those all-in-one detectors (smoke/fire, and CM) but I have noticed that many houses don't even have a smoke/fire detector. They are relatively inexpensive and can be a life saver. Every home needs one.


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