If you live in a house with a gas furnace you probably know you have a carbon monoxide detector. But it’s likely not something you’ve given much thought to — much like a smoke detector. If it’s quiet, things are good, right?

Carbon monoxide detectors have a shelf life, though, and can be pretty quiet about it as they reach a point where they’re no longer reliable. As we gear up for spring it’s a good time to look at some maintenance items before hitting the hot months.

Here are 4 things you may not know about carbon monoxide that could affect your home’s safety:

  1. Carbon monoxide is odorless and invisible. In the movies characters always say things like, “Do you smell gas?” In reality, though, you wouldn’t smell it if gas was leaking in your home, and you wouldn’t be able to see it either. This is why a functioning detector is important.
  2. It can become deadly pretty quickly. A leak in your home isn’t a mild irritant that you can ignore; carbon monoxide depletes the oxygen in your bloodstream when you breathe it. In a short span of time it can deprive key organs like your heart and brain of the oxygen needed to function properly. Early symptoms include headaches, weakness, dizziness, chest pain, or disorientation. As the levels of gas increase in the air, it can cause fatal oxygen deprivation.
  3. Carbon monoxide can build up in areas around furnaces, welders, and oil-lubricated compressors.
  4. How long do carbon monoxide detectors last? About 5-7 years, at which point they lose effectiveness and can’t be relied upon to keep you safe.

It’s not an everyday problem, but we have had a few cases where our techs were doing an inspection of folks’ HVAC systems and thought to check their carbon monoxide levels — only to discover there was indeed a leak and the detector hadn’t reported it. Left unchecked, it could’ve become dangerous.

If you’re curious, especially if it’s been several years since you had your filter changed, give us a call and let us know to include that in the checkup we’ll do when we stop by.