Safety in the home
It’s often easy to overlook common home safety problems. However one serious mishap can cause a lifetime of regret. Safety should be a primary concern for any homeowner. Is your home safe for people and pets?
What’s the Problem?
Carbon Monoxide (CO)
This odorless, tasteless, invisible gas can cause serious safety/health issues. At low levels you may experience headaches, dizziness, flu-like symptoms and irritability. High levels produce impaired vision, reduced brain function, unconsciousness, even death. Infants, pets, and the elderly are at special risk, as are folks with heart disease or breathing problems. (400 CO-related deaths and 20,000 hospital visits occur every year in the U.S)
Anything that burns fuel can produce unsafe levels of CO if improperly installed or poorly operating. The list includes; furnaces, boilers, water heaters, space heaters, stoves/ovens, clothes dryers, fireplaces, portable generators and cars.
CO problems can suddenly develop when changes are made, such as:
- Adding new heating equipment, insulation, siding, windows, roofing, bath/kitchen fans
- Sealing air leaks
Other Home Safety Problems
- Stairways without railings or adequate lighting
- Incorrect or damaged wiring
- Children have access to; cleaning products, chemicals, exposed electric outlets, drapery cords
- Inadequate number of smoke detectors
- No family fire escape plan
- Poorly lit outdoor entries
- Cracked or uneven outdoor pavement
Solving the Problem
- Install CO detectors in your home – preferably within 10 feet of sleeping areas. Change batteries every time you reset your clock in the spring and fall. If the alarm ever sounds leave the house immediately and call 911.
- Do a safety walk-through of your home to identify immediate issues. Fix those you can.
- Hire a Certified Energy Professional to do a complete home performance assessment (energy audit) before and after making changes in your home. This will uncover any resulting spike in CO levels, and find other safety problems you may have missed.
- Test for combustion safety after any remodeling project that changes the envelope of the house, or adds exhaust fans or appliances.
- Check for available programs in your area that help income-qualified households get a home performance assessment and correct the problems for free or at low cost.
- Read the Most Important Step
- Do a safety walk-through of your home - correct any issues
- Enlist the help a Certified Energy Professional
- Install CO detectors within 10 feet of sleeping areas.
- Review additional resources to build your confidence:
- Unintended Consequences of Air sealing and Insulation
- Video - Indoor Air Quality - Improving Your Home's Performance
- Healthy Homes
- Indoor Air quality, Carbon Monoxide - Minnesota Department of Health
- Minnesota Department of Commerce Weatherization Assistance Program
- More Than A Beautiful Home