Don’t Hit Snooze on CO and CO2
A Homeowner’s Need-to-Know Guide About Carbon Monoxide and Carbon Dioxide Levels
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is one of four in a series about indoor air quality (IAQ): 1. "Learn About the 6 Components of Indoor Air Quality." 2. "It’s a Balancing Act: Household Temp and Humidity." 3. "The Time is Up for Odor and Airborne Particles Inside the Home." 4. "A Homeowner’s Need-to-Know Guide About Carbon Monoxide and Carbon Dioxide Levels."
Carbon monoxide (CO) and carbon dioxide (CO2) are often confused. The names are similar; they are both colorless, odorless gas; and both can cause serious health concerns if consumed at high volumes. The difference is that CO2 is common – we breathe it out every day. CO is not common.
What to Know About Carbon Monoxide (CO)
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year more than 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning that isn’t linked to a fire, and more than 20,000 Americans visit the emergency room with more than 4,000 hospitalized. Known as the “silent killer,” the colorless, odorless, tasteless, non-irritating poisonous gas is produced by burning fuels. If homeowners have levels above 6 ppm (parts per million), there will be a safety issue.
Here are four common residential sources of excess CO:
- Homeowners may have a cracked heat exchanger on the furnace, a leaking vent or chimney.
- There may be inadequate or aging venting on combustion appliances like water heaters, gas stoves or dryers.
- CO can enter homes through an attached garage where exhaust from a car or gas generators easily make their way into the home.
- Indoor cigarette smoke can also cause CO poisoning.
CO poisoning is as serious as it gets. Learn more from the CDC about how to prevent CO poisoning.
Once homeowners take the recommended steps by the CDC, there are additional options to help ventilate and reduce CO levels in the home. A Fresh Air Ventilation System is an option to help reduce CO levels and help improve indoor air quality.
CO detectors are standard in most homes. Resideo offers a combination CO and smoke detector, the industry's first two-way, professionally monitored, wireless, combination smoke/heat and CO detector.
(Ranges above are according to industry and proprietary product information.)
What to Know About Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
Since there’s such a big difference between CO and CO2 – it’s important to understand how they differ, how they can build up in our homes and how we can help prevent it.
We breathe in oxygen and exhale CO2. If there isn’t adequate ventilation in our homes, levels of CO2 can rise and cause air quality concerns. CO2 is naturally present in the atmosphere at about 400 ppm, but more than a 750-ppm level indicates that better ventilation is needed.
Here are four common residential causes of elevated levels of CO2:
- A homeowner’s current ventilation system may be blocked, malfunctioning or turned off. There also may not be enough fresh air circulating.
- The home’s construction may be too tight or weatherized to allow for adequate ventilation.
- Everyday human and household activities like breathing, burning candles, natural gas or wood burning fireplaces without proper ventilation can cause CO2 levels to build up to dangerous levels.
- Appliances that have natural gas pilots such as stoves, hot water heaters and furnaces can contribute to elevated CO2 levels.
The key to preventing elevated CO2 levels is ventilation. But that doesn’t mean we have to ventilate at the expense of losing heated or cooled air. There are several kinds of ventilation that can keep air fresher and HVAC costs down.
- The Fresh Air Ventilation System may be the right choice to help keep CO2 levels acceptable.
- The TrueFRESH Balanced Ventilation System brings outside air into the home and circulates it, even when the windows are closed. It’s low maintenance and has an Energy Recovery Ventilator that balances the incoming temperature and humidity difference.
- A Digital Bath Fan Control is easy to install, easy to use and efficient. It ventilates the bathroom and keeps CO2 levels and moisture from building up in the smallest room in the house.
Homeowners with questions about what is or could be causing elevated levels of CO and CO2 in the home, should contact a local professional who can help them learn about the right solutions and help optimize their indoor air quality.