8 Tips to Protect Your Home from Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO), often referred to as the “silent killer,” poses a grave threat to thousands of Americans each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 420 people die in the U.S. from accidental CO poisoning, and over 100,000 people visit the hospital annually due to accidental CO poisoning. 

Many insurance carriers, mindful of the life-saving potential of carbon monoxide detectors, have woven them into the fabric of policy requirements and incentives. Generally speaking, the more safety and security features you add to your home, the lower your risk profile is for insurance companies. Factors such as CO detectors could affect any settlements you receive in the unfortunate event of a claim.

So, how can you safeguard yourself, your loved ones, and your home from the dangers of carbon monoxide? Here are eight tips to help you do just that.

What is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a deadly, colorless, and odorless gas produced by the incomplete burning of various fuels, including coal, wood, charcoal, oil, kerosene, propane, and natural gas. Even seemingly harmless household items, like gas ovens and ranges, can contribute to elevated carbon monoxide levels, as can products powered by internal combustion engines, such as cars and power tools.

Vented gas or oil furnaces, boilers, and water heaters are occasionally to blame. Still, they represent less than 25% of carbon monoxide-related illnesses. 

Common Carbon Monoxide Sources in the Home

Carbon monoxide (CO) is produced whenever something burns. Surprisingly, your attached garage may be a significant culprit, trapping CO inside and allowing it to seep into your home through cracks and gaps. Homes with gadgets running on fuel or connected garages are more prone to CO issues. 

So, where does this sneaky CO come from at home? Think fuel-burning appliances and devices, such as:

  • Water heaters
  • Furnaces or boilers
  • Fireplaces, both gas and wood-burning
  • Gas stoves and ovens
  • Motor vehicles
  • Grills, generators, power tools, lawn equipment
  • Wood stoves
  • Tobacco smoke

So, how can you prevent exposure to carbon monoxide for yourself, your home, and your loved ones? Here are eight tips to help you do just that.

#1 – Carbon Monoxide Detector/Alarm

Install at least one Low-Level CO detector on every level of your home, preferably outside bedrooms and near combustion equipment.

The typical lifespan of a CO detector is 2-3 years, and you’ll want to replace it when it expires. Please beware of the misconception that the test button on your carbon monoxide alarm ensures it is functioning correctly. It may not be, especially if it’s past its expiration date.

Professional-grade detectors, sometimes called Low-Level CO Detectors, are more sensitive and reliable than the carbon monoxide alarms you can buy from local or online retailers. Over-the-counter detectors are commonly known as “catastrophe alarms,” which means they only detect carbon monoxide levels once they’ve reached a critical point.

Therefore, it’s possible to have prolonged but low-level exposure to CO that evades detection. It’s important to note that there’s no safe level of exposure to CO. Low-level exposure may complicate pre-existing health concerns such as heart and lung disease, anemia, diabetes, asthma, depression, and learning and concentration problems.

The solution?

More advanced, professional-grade carbon monoxide detectors sold by many professional HVAC companies are easy to operate and reliable. These units often feature highly sensitive, CO-specific electrochemical sensors to detect and record even minor levels of CO circulating in your indoor air, identifying CO levels as low as 11 and as high as 999 parts per million (ppm).

#2 – Schedule Annual Maintenance

Schedule annual professional maintenance for combustion appliances, especially home heating equipment like furnaces, boilers, and water heaters, to ensure they function correctly and vent harmful gases safely.

Be sure that inspectors check chimneys and flues for blockages, corrosion, partial or complete disconnections, and loose connections. Make sure that no venting pathways have been compromised.

#3 – Hire a Pro for Installations

Hire professionals for servicing or installing fuel-burning appliances to ensure safety. It can be a safety hazard to service or install fuel-burning devices without proper training, so hire a professional to ensure you’re protected.

If you have to perform minor adjustments that don’t require a professional, consult your owner’s manual, or better yet, call a professional with any questions. 

#4 – Avoid Unvented Heaters and Fireplaces

These can be unsafe and produce unhealthy combustion byproducts. If used, ensuring proper ventilation during operation is critical for safety. Not only can improperly vented home heating equipment like gas or kerosene heaters, fireplaces, or gas logs produce combustion byproducts, but they can also produce large amounts of water vapor, which can cause condensation, moisture damage, and mold growth.

#5 – Blower Door Test

A professional blower door test conducted by a skilled HVAC company can identify potential pathways for CO to leak into your home, allowing for proper sealing or ventilation.

A blower door test will determine the tightness of your home and the potential pathways for CO and other harmful combustion byproducts to leak in. Once you know these pathways, you can have them sealed or properly ventilated.

Pro Tip: Ask a professional if dangerous negative pressure is being created in your home from the operation of exhaust fans, clothes dryers, and the closing of interior doors.

#6 – Kitchen CO Safety

If you have a gas range, ensure it’s vented to the outdoors. Consider installing a hood over the range for added safety. If you don’t have a hood over your oven, consider installing one.

Also, don’t use aluminum foil in the bottom of your oven.Some homeowners like to put a layer of aluminum foil on the bottom of their oven to catch drips and spills. This is never a good idea because it can block combustion airflow and produce CO.

#7 – Renovation Hazards

During renovations, ensure vents and chimneys are not blocked to prevent CO from backing into your home. If fuel-burning tools are being used, ensure your contractor takes appropriate precautions to maintain a fresh flow of air.

#8 – Machinery

Never operate generators or fuel-burning power tools in enclosed spaces. This includes using generators and other fuel-burning power tools in garages, houses, or sheds. CO levels can build to dangerous levels even with doors and windows open. The effects of carbon monoxide happen quickly, leaving little time to react.

Symptoms Of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Recognizing the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning is crucial. From headaches and fatigue to severe symptoms like mental confusion and loss of consciousness, understanding the signs can save lives.

The severity of symptoms is related to the CO level and the duration of exposure.

Low to Moderate CO Poisoning

For slowly developing residential CO problems, occupants and/or physicians can mistake mild to moderate CO poisoning symptoms for the flu, which sometimes results in tragic outcomes. Initial symptoms of low to moderate CO poisoning are similar to the flu but with no fever, and they include: 

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

High-Level CO Poisoning

In high-level CO exposures, victims can rapidly become mentally confused and can lose muscle control without having first experienced milder symptoms; they may die if not rescued. High-level CO poisoning results in progressively more severe symptoms, including:

  • Mental confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of muscular coordination
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Ultimately death


Carbon monoxide, the silent killer, demands our attention. By adopting preventive measures, investing in professional-grade detectors, and staying informed about potential sources, we can fortify our homes against this invisible threat and ensure the safety of our loved ones while reducing our risk from an insurance perspective.

Are you concerned about carbon monoxide in your home or business?

Our agents are ready to help you out, so contact us to learn how we can customize your homeowners insurance policies to meet your needs.

*Disclaimer: We offer content for informational purposes; Co-operative Insurance Companies may not provide all the services or products listed here. Please contact your local agent to learn how we can help with your insurance needs.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Carbon Monoxide (CO) Poisoning Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/features/copoisoning/index.html

Sanford Temperature Control. Exposing The “Silent Killer” – Part 3: How To Protect Yourself And Your Home From Carbon Monoxide Poisoning. https://choosesanford.com/exposing-the-silent-killer-part-3-how-to-protect-yourself-and-your-home-from-carbon-monoxide-poisoning/

Strike Check. Top Facts to Know About Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors for Insurance Claims.

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Carbon-Monoxide-Questions-and-Answers.

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