Cleaning Your BrickThe brick on your home is exposed to the elements on a 24/7 basis, and the rough surface of most bricks make them ideal for picking up dust and dirt. This can lead to damage over time, so once or twice a year you should take the time to clean your bricks. Most of the time this is as simple as spraying them down with a garden hose to remove any dirt and grime that’s built up on your home, though particularly tough spots and areas may need a scrub brush with soapy water as well. Avoid the temptation to use a power washer as the high water pressure can damage the brick.
Vegetation and Mildew RemovalWhile some plants such as ivy provide what some consider a dignified look, any vegetation that grows on your brick will damage it. Remove any vines, moss or other plants that you notice growing up your brick wall, making sure to wear gloves in case the plant is something that you don’t want to touch like poison ivy. You should also periodically check your brick for signs of mildew or mold, both of which can damage the brick surface as they grow. Scrub the area where you notice these growing, spraying them with a diluted solution of bleach and water to kill off any remaining remnants or spores. It’s a good idea to wet down the brick before you spray it, though, as this will prevent bleach from collecting in deeper contours of the brick and causing discoloration.
Checking for DamageThere are two types of damage you should check for at least once per year when you have a brick home. The first is impact damage, resulting from something hitting the brick and causing cracks, chips or other damage to it. This can come from a variety of sources, including things as ordinary as a lawnmower throwing a rock. The second type of damage to look for is water damage, which occurs when rain or splashing water repeatedly hits an area of the brick and starts to wear it away. Both of these can damage not only the bricks but the surrounding mortar as well. When damage is found, scrub the area to remove any loose material and keep an eye on the area to see if the damage gets worse over time. If the damage is caused by splashing water or other environmental issues, you might also adjust your landscaping or install additional drainage to redirect water and prevent further damage.
Repointing and RepairAs brick and mortar become damaged, you may need to make repairs from time to time. If the damage is just to the mortar, scrape and chisel away any damaged portions and apply new mortar to the entire area where wear and damage is present; this is typically known as repointing. If there are bricks that are damaged to the point that they need to be replaced, chisel away the mortar surrounding those bricks until they can be removed. Apply fresh mortar and new bricks to fill the damaged area.
Getting It Just RightIf the thought of replacing bricks or mortar intimidates you, we can help. Sign up for HomeKeepr today and we’ll help you find the masonry professional that can get the job done exactly the way you want it.
Picking the Right ColorIf you’re looking for a good color to apply throughout the house, consider a light shade of gray or beige. Both of these colors help to liven up rooms by adding just a bit of color but are neutral enough to let each room’s other accents take command. If you want something a bit different, taupe or so-called “greige” colors (mixes of gray and beige) can also work well. Some off-white colors, especially those with hints of brown or other warm shades, can also brighten up your rooms. Many of these colors pair well with white or beige baseboards and trim.
Good Kitchen ColorsIf you’re going room by room, the kitchen is a good place to add a bit of darker color. Darker grays and grays mixed with darker blue shades do well in the kitchen; in fact, some reports have shown that homes with a gray-blue shade in the kitchen sell for an average of $1800 more than similar homes with other kitchen shades. Depending on the size of your kitchen and the amount of wall that’s actually visible behind the cabinets and appliances, you may be able to get away with hotter colors such as deep red or dark orange. Just avoid going too bright with whatever color you choose.
Living Room and Bath ColorsThe living area and bathroom both benefit from more neutral shades such as beige and gray, but that doesn’t mean you can’t change things up in some cases. Consider the flooring and other fixtures as well as the amount of natural light that comes into the room and look at colors that take advantage of what’s already there. Light green, blue or brown can sometimes work wonderfully, especially if they include hints of gray to keep them from being too bright. You can even choose a bit stronger blues in the bathroom as homebuyers tend to respond well to blue there, just so long as you don’t go for too bright of a shade.
Bedroom ColorsBlue is a popular bedroom color, especially in shades such as cerulean. There are several bold color choices that you can get away with in the bedroom, though. Don’t go crazy with the bedroom colors and avoid anything that’s too bright – but giving the bedroom a splash of color in blue, green or even red or brown can work well so long as it’s not too much of a departure from the rest of the house.
Colors to AvoidThere are, of course, a few colors that you should avoid when painting your walls. Anything too bright or garish should obviously be avoided since it could turn off potential buyers. Black is another color to avoid; not only do many people find it depressing, but it will also be difficult for future homeowners to cover up. Also on the list of colors to avoid? Bright white. You might think that this would give your home a clean look or make it ready for a new homeowner to customize, but bright whites (especially when paired with white trim) often create a clinical look that actually makes buyers less interested in the space.
Making the ChoiceIf you’re not sure which colors will work best in your home, consider bringing in an interior designer or painter to help you pick the perfect hue. Sign up for a free HomeKeepr account today and you can find the perfect helper for your budget and your sense of style.
CandlesWith the right candleholders, basic white candles can add a spooky ambiance that hearkens back to older Halloween traditions. Specialty candles are available that are carved to look like bones or horns as well. No need to go overboard with effects-candles, such as those that “bleed” when lit; just a few tapers burned to different lengths and then extinguished serve as the perfect subtle candle accent to your other decorations.
PumpkinsWhat would Halloween be without pumpkins? While the traditional jack-o-lantern is still great, there’s an increasingly common trend to display uncarved pumpkins as well. White pumpkins are also seeing an upswing in popularity to really help set your decorations apart from the norm.
Halloween WreathsAlso seeing an increased popularity are Halloween wreaths. Coming in a variety of styles, these wreaths have a lot more room to experiment than more traditional Christmas wreaths because of the generally spooky nature of the holiday. You can DIY a wreath yourself or buy one of multiple pre-made varieties to give your home a really unique Halloween look.
Lighting and SignsHalloween lights have been growing in popularity in recent years, providing a decorative option that can be enjoyed even once the sun goes down. Signs, both lighted and non-lighted, are also firmly establishing themselves as Halloween must-haves. Combining the two can give your home a unique look that neighbors can enjoy both during the day and after the night descends.
Window DécorInstead of going all-out with inflatables, animatronics and big clunky pieces made of plastic and rubber, an up-and-coming trend is to make use of silhouettes in front of plain curtains to give your decorations a more subtle flair. Some homes even take this a step beyond, using white sheets or similar coverings on the interior windows and then using creative lighting and figure placement to actually cast shadows onto the waiting windows. The shadow puppet feel gives the effect an extra layer of spookiness.
Black and White and Purple TrappingsWhile black and orange are the dominant colors of Halloween, a big trend in recent years has been to move away from the orange and embrace the holiday’s darker tones. White is used for contrast, with the predominant colors in decorations being black and dark purple. Splashes of other colors may be added as well, but the black, white and purple theme is definitely striking.
Zombie FlamingosWhile there has been a move away from some of the cheesier parts of the holiday, the kitsch of putting zombie flamingos on your lawn is a bit too fun to ignore. There are a variety of styles of flamingoes available ranging from silly to gory, giving you plenty of room to find birds that match both your personal tastes and decorating style. Best of all, they can be mixed with a few traditional pink flamingos to give everything a splash of color while totally buying into the Halloween fun.
Need Some Halloween Style?If you’re not sure what sort of decorations would look best with your home, consider consulting a decorator who has experience with Halloween trappings. Not only will they help you pick the best décor options, but they’ll aid you in choosing accents that go perfectly with both your home style and the decorations you choose. Sign up for a free HomeKeepr account and get matched with the decorator you’re searching for today!
Gas HeatAs the name implies, gas heat means that your system produces heat by burning a flammable gas (typically propane or natural gas). Depending on where you live, the gas either comes from a city-supplied utility line or a standalone tank that sits on your property. The heater functions by adjusting the gas passing through the heating chamber to make flames larger or smaller, controlling the amount of heat the flames release into the air that passes through the chamber. Propane heat may also come in other forms, such as gas fireplaces that serve a decorative purpose, as well as providing localized heat.
Forced AirA forced air system is one that uses fans or other blowers to move air over a heating element and throughout the heating system’s ductwork. These are some of the more common heaters that you will encounter, as variations of forced air heating is used in most central heat and air systems and in many portable heaters.
Baseboard RadiatorsThere are a few different types of baseboard radiators that you might encounter. These heaters sit at or around floor level around the edges of a room, generating heat and allowing it to rise naturally throughout the room or house. Different materials are used in these heaters, with more modern varieties using pipes filled with heated oil to hold and radiate heat at a lower power cost than similar heating options like older, electric floor radiators.
Radiant HeatAn increasingly popular option for heating the home comes in the form of radiant heat flooring. A closed liquid heating system is embedded in concrete or other flooring material, heating the floor itself and allowing that heat to radiate upward naturally to provide gentle heat over a larger area without the need for high energy costs. There are a wide range of radiant heat options available, including everything from electric heating to systems that are heated from a wood stove outside of the home.
Solid Fuel HeatersAlso referred to as “pellet stoves” or “biomass heaters”, solid fuel heaters are stoves or other heating units that burn solid materials such as wood pellets or shavings instead of liquid or gas fuels. This is seen as something of a green option for homeowners who want to use wood and other materials that would otherwise be considered waste by the forestry industry. The fuel pellets or shavings are loaded into the heater and released into the burning chamber gradually, providing more control over the temperature and heat intensity than you would have with traditional wood-burning stoves.
CHP SystemsAn emerging technology, “combined heat and power” or CHP heating systems are designed to be another environmentally-friendly heating option. These systems use a generator that produces power for the home or other buildings on the property, then reclaims heat energy released by the generator to heat the home. These systems are not yet available in all areas and may not be for everyone since they do provide more than just heat. For those planning for the future, however, keeping an eye on CHP systems may be a way to heat the home while simultaneously reducing dependence on external power.
Turn Up the HeatIf you aren’t sure what type of heating system is best for your needs, HomeKeepr is here to help. Sign up for free and we can help you find a professional that will match you with the heating solution that best fits your home and budget.
Moisture in basements: causes and solutionsBy John Carmody; Brent Anderson; and Richard Stone, Extension educator University of Minnesota
A problem that can damage your health and homeMoisture problems in existing basements are very common, but often are not understood or properly treated. In a basement that is seldom used and separate from the living spaces above, this may not present a great problem. However, most basements in Minnesota are connected to the rest of the house through ductwork or other openings. In addition, basements are increasingly used as finished living and bedroom spaces. In these cases, moisture problems are not only annoying and uncomfortable, but can lead to significant health problems. Molds and mildew can grow in damp carpets and beneath wall coverings. Finishing a basement without first dealing with the moisture problems can result in making health conditions worse and lead to significant damage as well. Basement water problems are solvable, but there is a cost to doing it right.
Understanding the problemTo correct basement moisture problems, it's necessary to understand where the water is coming from and what mechanisms permit it to enter the basement. There are just three sources of moisture:
- Liquid water from rain or ground-water.
- Interior moisture sources such as humidifiers, unvented clothes dryers, bathrooms and cooking, as well as the moisture in concrete after construction.
- Exterior humid air that enters the basement and condenses on cooler surfaces.
- Liquid water flow.
- Capillary suction.
- Vapor diffusion.
- Air movement.
- Water trickling out of walls.
- Standing water on floor.
- Saturated base of concrete block walls; a ring of dampness.
- Damp, humid air.
- Condensation on cold walls and floor in summer.
- Odor, mold and mildew.
- Deterioration of carpet or wood.
- Rot and decay of wood headers, joists, sill plates and columns.
- Staining and blistering of wall covering.
- Efflorescence, spalling of concrete or masonry.
Basement moisture sources
Rain and groundwaterIn a 1-inch rain, 1,250 gallons of water fall on the roof of a 2,000-square-foot house. Without proper grading, gutters and downspouts, some of this water flows into the basement. The below-grade water table can also rise due to flooding or seasonal site conditions. This is why drain tile systems are recommended around basement walls even in sandy or gravel soils.
Interior moisture sourcesMoisture is generated inside of basements from people and their activities. Common sources are humidifiers, unvented clothes dryers, showering and cooking. When basements are finished, these activities increase. Another source that can be thought of as internal is the moisture contained in new concrete after construction. In a typical house, this can amount to 0.2 gallons per square foot of wall, and 0.1 gallons per square foot of floor. It may take many months or even years for a new house to come into equilibrium with its environment.
Ventilation with humid outside airIn the summertime, basement windows may be opened for fresh air. If the outside air is warm and humid, it will condense on the cool basement wall and floor surfaces. Many homeowners see this moisture and believe they are experiencing basement wall leakage, when in fact the accumulated moisture is from condensation.
Moisture movement mechanisms
Capillary suctionCapillary suction moves moisture through porous materials. The water can be drawn upward through small pores in the concrete footing and slab and laterally through walls. This effect creates the ring of dampness seen at the base of many basement walls. This is very common at cold joints. Water can rise by capillary draw significantly as shown below: Soil type and amount of capillary rise:
- Gravel - Less than a few inches.
- Sand - 1 to 8 feet.
- Silt - 12 to 16 feet.
- Clay - 12 to 20 feet.
Air leakage through walls and floorIn most houses, a stack effect is created because warm air rises. This induces a negative pressure on the basement and draws moist air in through any cracks or openings in the foundation including open sump pits. For this reason, sumps should have an airtight cover. With a concrete block foundation, moist air is drawn through the block cores, especially if they are left open at the top course.
Vapor diffusion through foundation wallsVapor diffusion is the movement of moisture in the vapor state through a material. It's dependent on the permeability of the material and the driving force of vapor pressure differential. In a basement, vapor can diffuse from the wetter ground through concrete walls and floors toward the dryer basement interior. Vapor retarders such as foundation waterproofing and polyethylene slow down this process.
Typical causes of basement moisture problems
Inadequate gradingPROBLEM: If the ground around a foundation is level or slopes toward the house, water is directed into the basement. The soil next to the house is often backfilled without proper compaction and later settles. This is especially true under stoops where water can collect next to the basement wall. SOLUTION: Place earth around the house so that it slopes away from the foundation wall a minimum of 1 inch per foot for at least 6 feet.
Defective or missing gutters and downspoutsPROBLEM: Missing gutters and downspouts cause rainwater to be directed toward the foundation perimeter. A downspout without an extender or splashblock is worse than no downspout at all. It is depositing the huge volume of rainwater from the roof in a single concentrated location near the basement. SOLUTION: Place a minimum of one downspout per 50 linear feet of roof eave. Extensions should discharge water at least 4 feet beyond the wall. Sloped concrete sidewalks around basements are very effective in directing rain runoff.
Improperly designed window wellsPROBLEM: Window wells are like a drain right next to the basement wall. Often they are improperly built so that any water is directed toward, rather than away from the foundation. SOLUTION: Window wells should be filled from the footing to the window sill with 3/8- to 3/4-inch coarse aggregate. A supplemental drain tile extension should extend from the footing to the base of the window well.
Ineffective drain tile and sump pitPROBLEM: Many existing houses simply have no subsurface drainage system. This comes from a time when basements were not used as habitable space. In other cases, the systems don't work for a variety of reasons, such as collapse of the pipe, clogging of the pipe with silt and/or tree roots or a broken connection to the sump. The sump pit usually contains a pump designed to lift the water to the ground surface outside the foundation wall. This pump can fail.
Improper drainage with underslab ductsPROBLEM: If heating ducts are installed beneath a basement floor slab, the drainage system may be inappropriately left at a level higher than the duct. In effect, the duct becomes the drainage system. With standing water within the heating duct, there are potentially serious health consequences from mold contamination. SOLUTION: Heating ducts placed beneath the basement floor must be insulated, watertight and sloped to collection points for drainage and cleaning. A drain tile and coarse aggregate can be placed under the ductwork.
Structural cracksPROBLEM: Concrete and concrete block foundations usually develop some cracks. They can be severe if floor joists are not properly connected to the foundation wall, thus permitting the wall to move. Also, soil settling causes cracking. Places where walls meet rigid structures like the fireplace often crack as well. Usually, drainage removes the water from cracks, but repair may be necessary. SOLUTION: Proper footing design and proper connection between the foundation wall and the structure above are required (e.g. anchor bolts or straps at the sill plate and floor joists nailed to the sill plate).
An overview of solutions to basement moisture problemsThe best way to approach any building problem is to first do the things that are easy and low cost. Then proceed in a logical order doing the next least costly technique with the most positive likely result. With moisture problems, the best approach is almost always to remove or control the source of the moisture, not to try to stop it at the last line of defense.
- First, the simplest and least costly techniques are to remove excessive internal moisture sources in the basement (humidifiers, cooking) and ventilate other sources (clothes dryer, bathroom).
- Second, if condensation in the summer is the problem, do not ventilate the basement directly with warm, humid air. Ventilation through an air conditioning system or with a dessicant-type heat exchanger is recommended.
Dehumidification is not a permanent solutionDehumidification can be used as a means of reducing the symptoms of humidity and odor in a basement, but it is not a permanent or complete solution. In fact, if a dehumidifier is used in a basement with moisture problems, it may cause greater damage. By drying out the basement air, moisture is drawn into the basement more rapidly causing efflorescence and spalling of concrete and further damage to interior finishes.
Interior membrane or coating is a temporary solutionIt is appealing to solve a basement moisture problem with a membrane or coating on the inside. It's less expensive than a drainage system and seems to work for a time in some cases. The water is still there, however, and eventually these systems deteriorate or simply move the water to another pathway into the basement.
Recommended approachEvaluate gutters, downspouts and surface grading: The recommended approach after removing interior moisture sources is to evaluate the gutters, downspouts and surface grading around the house. These should be corrected first and may solve the problem. Interior or exterior drainage system: Then, if a moisture problem persists, proceed with an interior or exterior drainage system. All of these techniques are described below. If your goal is to finish a basement that has water problems, it is recommended to first deal with the water problem. Sub-slab depressurization system: An active sub-slab depressurization system including a washed-rock layer below the slab is recommended. This draws moist air from beneath the slab and may help to reduce the amount of moisture vapor that enters the home through openings in the slab. It also assists in controlling radon and other soil gases. Sumps and other open connections to the soil outside the foundation and below the slab should be blocked and sealed. More information on soil gas management can be found in "Building Radon Out," a booklet available in electronic format (PDF) from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Step by step process
- Control interior moisture sources.
- If summertime, don't ventilate with outside air.
- Correct grading, gutter and downspout system.
- Provide an interior or exterior drainage system.
- A dehumidifier can help reduce the symptoms of humidity and odor, but doesn't solve the problem.
- A membrane or coating on the interior without providing drainage generally won't solve the problem in the long term.
- Walls must be dry before insulating. Slabs must be warm and dry before carpeting.
Can a house be too airtight? No it cannot. The difference between air barriers and vapour barriers is often confused. Also confused, is which one is more important.
The difference between air barriers and vapour barriersThe job of a vapor barrier is to prevent vapor diffusion, and the job of an air barrier is to stop air leakage through differences in air pressure. A wall system should have one vapor barrier, but can have many air barriers. A vapor barrier can act as a very effective air barrier, but an air barrier does not (and should not) always stop vapor from difusing. A wool sweater for example, is a good choice of insulation and will keep you warm when there is no air movement, but will allow the wind to howl right through it. A wool sweater with a raincoat will keep you warm but hold moisture inside and soak your insulation. A wool sweater with a windbreaker will keep you warm, stop the wind from stealing your heat, yet allow moisture to difuse through it. So think of a windbreaker as an air barrier, and a raincoat as a vapor barrier. That is about as far as I can stretch the human to house analogy, hope it helps. Since warm air expands, there is more space between its molecules compared to cold air. Water vapour is found in that space. When warm air cools as it passes through your walls, it contracts and squeezes out the moisture, leaving you with condensation. In order to prevent condensation from forming, a vapour barrier should be placed on the warm side of your insulation to stop warm, moist air from condensing on a cold surface inside your wall. In cold climates like Canada, for most of the year the vapour barrier should be on the inside of the insulation. In hot climates like the southern U.S. for example, vapor barrier should be installed on the outside of the insulation, especially where there's air-conditioning involved to prevent condensation and mold. In both cases, the vapour barrier is tasked with preventing warm, humid air from shedding its moisture as it meets a cool surface, no matter which direction it is travelling. The most important thing to realize is that there is no fixed rule regarding vapour barriers. Building practices should always be determined by the climate in which you are building.
How water vapour travels:There are two main ways moisture will pass through your walls that you should be concerned about — air leakage and vapour diffusion. These are two completely different things, with two completely separate solutions. Vapour diffusion is the process of moisture passing through breathable building materials, like drywall and insulation. Vapour barriers are there to prevent that from happening. Air leakage is due to air pressure differences between indoors and out, which forces air through any holes in your air barrier.
Where the problem arises:The dewpoint in a wall is the point where the drop in temperature causes air to contract, and water vapour turns to liquid. Since the warmer the air is the more moisture it can hold, where the dewpoint will be in your wall is determined by the difference in temperature from indoor to out, and the amount of moisture in the air (RH - Relative Humidity). The job of both air barriers and vapour barriers is to prevent moisture from forming at that critical point, they just do it in completely different ways.
Vapour barriersThe rule for vapour barrier installation in cold climates is to have it on the interior with at least 2/3rds of your insulation on the outside of the vapour barrier. Air barriers on the other hand can come in the form of house wrap (WRBs), tightly sealed sheathing, insulation that slows airflow, and well-sealed gypsum board (drywall). To explain this further, Gypsum board (drywall) is vapour permeable, but stops air flow. This means water vapour can diffuse through it, but air cannot pass through it. So if you were to have a home with no windows and no vapour barrier but simply a sealed gypsum board box all around, you would have an airtight seal with no moisture carried through by air transport. The key factor here, is that the amount of vapour molecules that will pass through that gypsum board box is insignificant compared to the moisture that will pass through if you cut just one small hole in it and had an air pressure difference.
Can a house be too airtight? No it cannot.Unfortunately, air barriers are really not given the attention they should be in regards to the building envelope. In large residential developments, air barriers are often not even on the radar. Crews come and go, and in the interest of mass production, some standard practices can be detrimental to the performance of the final wall system. A proper air barrier is one of the most important elements of a successful building enclosure, and one of the most overlooked. Given the amount of heat loss due to air transmission and the potential moisture damage from air leaks, air barriers should be getting a lot more attention than they are.
- Green Building Advisor - Understanding Air Barriers, Vapor Barriers and Drainage planes
- Building Science Corporation - Air Barriers vs. Vapour Barriers
Carbon monoxide is a tasteless, odorless, invisible gas that occurs naturally through combustion, or, the process of burning. Low exposure to carbon monoxide can cause symptoms similar to the flu. In high doses, exposure to carbon monoxide can be lethal.Many people who are exposed to carbon monoxide are exposed indoors in their own home. Any appliance that burns fuel indoors could be a potential source for carbon monoxide including gas stoves, clothes dryers, water heaters, furnaces, grills, generators, car engines and fireplaces. Anyone can be affected by carbon monoxide poisoning, but some people are more likely to get sick than others. The elderly, infants, people with heart problems, people with breathing problems and people with anemia are all more likely to experience ill effects from exposure to carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide has been called the silent killer, because it is completely undetectable by human senses. People who experience carbon monoxide poisoning often have no idea what is happening to them. There are many ways that you can protect yourself and other people in your home from carbon monoxide exposure.
Table of Contents
- Dangers of Carbon Monoxide
- Carbon Monoxide Detectors
- Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning at Home
- Stay Educated, Stay Aware
Dangers of Carbon MonoxideCarbon monoxide is invisible and difficult to detect. Awareness about carbon monoxide poisoning can save lives. Carbon monoxide often enters the home via an appliance that is malfunctioning or an engine that has been left running. People who are exposed to carbon monoxide will experience varying symptoms. Knowing what to look for can help you avoid exposure, and take action when a problem occurs.
Warning Signs in the HomeAlthough carbon monoxide is itself impossible to smell, hear or see, some warning signs can still be detected. Condensation on the windows, for example, could be an indication of a problem. This occurs because carbon monoxide and water vapor are both byproducts of inefficient combustion. When water vapor appears suddenly and inexplicably in the home, carbon monoxide may be present as well. In some cases, the appliance that is burning fuel inefficiently may produce a hot or stuffy smell. Appliances that leak carbon monoxide may also develop a sooty stain. A pilot light that goes out frequently could be an indication of a problem, as is slow burning fuel. In the case of a fireplace, soot may fall down from the chimney into the firebox. You might also notice lack of an upward draft.
Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide PoisoningIn mild cases, symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can seem very flu-like. The severity of the symptoms will depend on the person and also on the level of exposure. Symptoms of mild exposure include:
- Stomach pain
- Burning eyes
- Difficulty breathing
What to Do When You Suspect Carbon Monoxide PoisoningVictims often cannot think clearly once poisoning has set in, which makes self-diagnosis challenging. One of the tell-tale signs is that pets and other people in the house will experience symptoms of poisoning at the same time. In the event of exposure, getting fresh air should be the first priority. Once outside, contact emergency services. Tell the authorities your assumed diagnosis so they can test you for exposure. Do not go back into your house until the air inside has cleared and the environment is safe. If you believe that your exposure is due to a problem with a gas-powered appliance, have your gas company inspect your house and gas line. If someone you love is exposed to carbon monoxide poisoning, call 9-1-1. Be aware that a rescue attempt in a carbon-monoxide rich environment could lead to a dangerous or even fatal level of exposure. Ask emergency responders for next steps before attempting to rescue a loved one yourself.
Carbon Monoxide DetectorsBecause symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can look like so many other ailments, and because carbon monoxide is basically impossible to detect, carbon monoxide detectors are an essential part of protecting yourself and those in your home from poisoning. Many people have at least one carbon monoxide detector in their home. Here's what you need to know to stay safe.
How Does a Carbon Monoxide Detector Work?A simple reaction causes the alarm to sound. Carbon monoxide detectors come with sensors that measure the parts per million (PPM) of the carbon monoxide (CO) in the atmosphere. If the machine detects high amounts of carbon monoxide in the air, the alarm sounds. The higher the concentration, the faster the alarm will sound. 9 PPM is common in homes, but levels of 10 PPM and over can cause health stress for some higher-risk individuals. A normal healthy adult may be at risk at around 36 PPM and up. Carbon monoxide detectors also come with an LED light that indicates the unit is functioning. You'll be able to tell your carbon monoxide detector is functioning by watching the alarm for the light to flash, or by pushing the test button. If pushing the test button does not cause the alarm to sound, then the batteries may be dead or the unit may need to be replaced. Most detectors need to be replaced every 5 to 7 years. Check your specific unit for an expiration date or a date of manufacture, then replace the unit when the time comes.
How Many Carbon Monoxide Alarms Should I Have? In What Location?You almost can't have too many carbon monoxide detectors. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends putting carbon monoxide detectors in a number of places in your home. Put them outside your bedrooms, in your hallway, in your kitchen, near your furnace and on every floor of your house. If you have an enclosed attached garage, put a detector just inside or near the door to your garage. If you're hard of hearing, make sure carbon monoxide detectors are dispersed so you will hear them from where ever they go off. Here is another resource of general DO's and DONT'S when it comes to carbon monoxide detector placement.
What Type of Carbon Monoxide Detectors Should You Install?There are multiple types of carbon monoxide detectors. You can choose the type that's right for you, your budget and your household.
- Battery operated. These are basic carbon monoxide detectors that can be installed easily with a simple screw.
- Hardwired. Hardwired carbon monoxide detectors are connected to a home's electrical grid; they rely on battery backup when the power goes out.
- Digital. Digital carbon monoxide detectors show the level of carbon monoxide in the home so homeowners can monitor the level of CO in the air.
- Smart. Smart carbon monoxide detectors can be connected to a home's wireless network, so levels of CO can be monitored even from a distance.
MaintenanceOnce the carbon monoxide detectors have been put up, test them monthly and replace their batteries annually. Be sure to check the expiration dates or dates of manufacture when you replace the batteries, to ensure that the detectors are replaced when the time is right. Like smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors will chirp when their batteries start to go dead. When the unit detects carbon monoxide, the alarm will sound. No amount of replacing the battery will stop the unit from beeping if there is carbon monoxide in the air. Don't assume that there's a false alarm if the unit goes off.
What to Do When the Carbon Monoxide Detector Goes OffWhen a carbon monoxide detector goes off in your home, leave the house calmly. Take everyone in your house outside with you, and if possible, bring your cell phone as well. Once outside, check everyone for signs of possible carbon monoxide poisoning. Contact the authorities to alert them to the problem, and if people from your household are showing signs of a health problem, tell the authorities while you're on the phone. Hopefully emergency personnel will come evaluate your home for possible carbon monoxide leaks. If the authorities are not coming, contact an appliance repair person, plumber, HVAC contractor or someone from the gas company to check on the problem for you. If the carbon monoxide detector goes off and the proper help is unable to find sources of carbon monoxide in your home, the problem may have dissipated or you may have had a false alarm. The following tips will help you avoid false alarms in the future:
- Relocate your carbon monoxide detectors to an area 10 feet away from sources of humidity and 20 feet away from fossil fuel burning appliances.
- Replace the batteries in your carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they are functioning properly.
- Replace the units altogether if you have reason to believe that they're no longer working.
Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning at HomeSometimes it is not a fuel-burning appliance that causes the problem, but the person operating the appliance. It's very important to use best practices when operating your home's appliances, fixtures and heat sources. Be aware of the things you could do that would potentially put you at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. The more you know about carbon monoxide and how it is produced, the better.
Things That Cause Carbon Monoxide BuildupAn array of things can cause carbon monoxide to buildup inside the house. Appliances must burn fuel efficiently or they could produce excessive amounts of carbon monoxide. You can protect yourself by inspecting your home's appliances for indications of a problem and by keeping your appliances in good condition. Gas-Burning Furnace Gas-burning furnaces use combustion to produce heat that keeps your home warm. Inspect your furnace on an annual basis and watch for signs of inefficiency. Take note of the following problems:
- Yellow flames
- Soot around the combustion chamber
- Blocked vents
- Avoid turning on lawn mowers and power tools indoors.
- Never run a generator indoors; place generators outside at least 20 feet from windows and entryways.
Best Practices and What Not to DoA lot of homeowners and renters make mistakes that lead to carbon monoxide poisoning because they simply don't know any better. If you own a home or rent an apartment with appliances that burn fuel, or if you keep gasoline on hand in your home, familiarize yourself with these best practices. Gasoline As gasoline evaporates, it produces a number of vapors, including carbon monoxide. You can protect yourself and members of your household by keeping gasoline in an air-tight container away from sources of combustion.
- Use a gasoline container with a child-proof lid to store gasoline.
- Keep gasoline away from heat sources and sources of combustion.
- Never use gasoline to light a fire.
- Never store gasoline without a lid.
- If possible, keep gasoline in a detached structure like a shed.