CO detectors and maintenance will help keep you safe

6:27 PM, Dec 13, 2013   |    comments
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Carbon monoxide detector (AP image)

GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- When cold and snow arrive, furnaces and fireplaces are pressed into service.

Each year, about 500 people die and 15,000 are hospitalized from carbon monoxide poisoning - a by-product of burning fuels like natural gas and wood. In many cases, the colorless, odorless gas accumulates due to a faulty furnace or poor ventilation.

That is why recent revisions to the International Fire Code call for carbon monoxide detectors in homes. The Grand Rapids fire code does not require carbon monoxide detectors, but that could change when the fire code is updated next year.

 Grand Rapids firefighters have responded to more than 100 carbon monoxide alarms so far this year. While many are due to faulty detectors or low batteries, in a dozen cases, dangerous levels of carbon monoxide were found.

 "Generally speaking, it has something to do with the furnace or water heater,'' Grand Rapids Fire Lt. Dan VanderHyde said. "We use fans to ventilate the house.''

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, weakness, dizziness and shortness of breath. If several people in your home have similar symptoms, move outside to fresh air immediately.

Unlike smoke detectors, which emit a chirp when batteries run low, CO detectors emit a steady signal which people often mistake as an actual alarm. VanderHyde recommends checking the owner's manual or the back of the detector to find out what signal your detector emits when batteries are low.

 Carbon monoxide detectors cost between $25 and $50. If the detector plugs into a wall outlet, make sure it has a battery backup, he said.

One way to keep carbon monoxide from accumulating indoors is by keeping your furnace exhaust vent free of snow and ice. Also keep the air intake vent free of obstructions to prevent your furnace from shutting down.

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