Carbon Monoxide: A Silent Killer

Mar 5, 2019

Written by Tom Wheat

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is produced when organic materials (such as carbon-based fuels) are burned. It’s toxic to humans, it’s readily absorbed by our lungs, and it can be very difficult to detect.

When carbon monoxide enters the body, it binds with the hemoglobin in the blood, which prevents the blood from carrying oxygen. This can result in brain injury, nervous system damage, and death.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include: headaches, nausea, breathlessness, collapse, dizziness, and loss of consciousness.

Approximately 50,000 people are hospitalized for carbon monoxide poisoning each year. Around 500 people die from it annually, often in their own homes. Most accidental CO poisoning deaths are caused by electric generators, space heaters, and grills (charcoal and propane). These incidents spike every time there’s an extended power outage, as desperate people try to carry on without taking the proper precautions.

While it might seem obvious that you should never run a portable generator indoors, these numbers show that some people just aren’t getting the memo, and the consequences can be fatal.

A CDC survey found that only 30% of American homes have functioning carbon monoxide detectors. The survey also revealed that many people incorrectly assume that their smoke alarms will detect carbon monoxide, and so they never bother to install a proper CO detector.

Generac CO-SENSE

Starting this year, Generac is rolling out updated models of their various portable generators that feature a built-in carbon monoxide detector. This detector will trigger an automatic shut-down of the generator when CO levels become unsafe. The technology is called “CO-SENSE”.

Generac says that CO-SENSE is reliable, tamper-proof, and cost effective. They expect to have a full line of portable units with this feature available by the third quarter of 2019.

CO Poisoning Prevention Tips

  • Change the batteries in your CO detector every six months. If you don’t have a battery-powered or battery back-up CO detector, buy one soon.
  • Have your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
  • Keep vents and flues free of debris. Debris can block ventilation lines.
  • Never leave the motor running in a vehicle parked in an enclosed or partially enclosed space, such as a garage.
  • Never run a motor vehicle, generator, pressure washer, or any gasoline-powered engine less than 20 feet from an open window, door, or vent where exhaust can vent into an enclosed area.
  • Never use a charcoal grill, hibachi, lantern, or portable camping stove inside a home, tent, or camper.
  • Never run a generator, pressure washer, or any gasoline-powered engine inside a basement, garage, or other enclosed structure, even if the doors or windows are open.
  • If you suspect CO poisoning, call 911 or a health care professional right away.

For more information on Generac CO-SENSE, or to get a quote for a generator of any size, please contact us:

1-800-475-1321 |