Carbon Monoxide Testing and Inspection

If you’re at the stage of getting a pre-purchase home inspection done, you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed by the number of details you’ve already had to consider. Not to worry, we’ve got you. In this article, we’ll go through what exactly home inspectors consider when it comes to carbon monoxide for both the presence and detection of this insidious gas.

What is carbon monoxide?

Over 400 Americans tragically pass away each year due to carbon monoxide poisoning. Despite this unsettling statistic, many of us only know that carbon monoxide is bad, but not exactly how it comes to be in our homes. This knowledge is important because, with it, we become more aware of how to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, which can cause illness or be fatal at high levels.

Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of burning things like fossil fuels, wood, and coal. When these things are burnt, they release carbon monoxide into the air, ordinarily present at small levels but becoming dangerous as the concentration increases.

Signs of carbon monoxide poisoning

One of the sneakiest things about carbon monoxide is that it is colorless and odorless, and its symptoms are also stereotypically flu-like. With headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and fatigue being the primary symptoms, carbon monoxide poisoning is very tough to catch.

Sources of carbon monoxide

The most common culprits for causing increased carbon monoxide levels in your home are gas appliances like dryers, stoves and fireplaces, as well as wood-burning fireplaces. These appliances alone are not dangerous — the trouble arises when they are not adequately maintained or ventilated. Poor maintenance or ventilation causes a backup of carbon monoxide, resulting in the concentration inside your home.

Carbon monoxide inspection 

The short answer to the question, “Is carbon monoxide detection included in a home inspection?” is no. Because carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless, mobile detection requires specific instruments and training. 

Home inspectors are trained to assess the quality and condition of your home’s essential systems like its foundation, structure, roof, electrical, and HVAC. The presence of carbon monoxide detectors is something that your inspector will check for and detail in your home inspection report. Note that this is for the existence and functionality of carbon monoxide detectors only; home inspectors won’t look for the presence of the actual gas itself.

You can pay for a third-party to test for carbon monoxide in your home, the supplies for a pre-sale or pre-purchase inspection, and if you already own the home and are checking just to be safe. It’s worth noting, however, that bringing a professional to test specifically for carbon monoxide is generally only done if you have a particular concern. An example of a time that you would want to test for carbon monoxide independently, even if you have detectors, is if several people in your home start experiencing the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning at the same time or if you have a family pet who passes away suddenly. Pets are also sensitive to carbon monoxide, and due to their smaller size, they often experience fatal symptoms before humans are aware that anything is amiss.

Testing for carbon monoxide

The good news is if you decide to pay for a professional to test the carbon monoxide levels in your home, it’s a very smooth and quick process. Professional testers will use a mobile machine and spend 10 to 15 minutes per gas appliance in your home. Depending on how many gas appliances you have, the inspector could be in and out in as little as 15 to 20 minutes.

Preventing carbon monoxide 

There are two main ways to avoid illness from carbon monoxide poisoning in your home — detection and prevention.

Detection begins with the simple installation of carbon monoxide detectors. These can be combined with fire alarms or installed separately if you already have fire alarms installed, typical in older homes. Make sure to set a schedule to check your carbon monoxide detectors’ functionality and battery life at least once every six months. Malfunctioning carbon monoxide detectors are one of the top ways people in a home fall victim to illness or death from carbon monoxide.

Prevention is all about being proactive and regularly maintaining your gas appliances. Ensuring that every gas appliance is clean and properly ventilated is critical in ensuring safety within your home. You can do day-to-day maintenance, and a professional can do a yearly check to ensure that there aren’t any more significant issues you aren’t likely to spot on your own unless you are a fireplace or appliance expert.

As with many health and safety issues, a little knowledge and diligent prevention can help you avoid tragic consequences. Having gas appliances in your home certainly isn’t something to be fearful of. However, the extra care and maintenance they require is something to be aware of. Busy lives and hectic schedules can provide more than enough distraction to cause home maintenance to fall by the wayside. Setting yourself reminders in calendar apps that repeat monthly, quarterly, bi-annually and yearly is a great way to ensure that you stay on top of these tasks and keep yourself and your family safe.