People who live in countries with persistent power outage depend a lot on generators for their power and energy needs. Although this is more common in developing countries. This is also common in the United States. For instance, Hurricane Michael that occurred in the Southeast in October 2018 caused up to 1.7 million power outages. And so many people had to resort to fuel-based generators. Similarly, Hurricane Irma, which occurred in 2017, resulted in power cuts for over 60% of Florida residents. And increased the rate of generator use in the Southeastern United States. Unfortunately, during these emergency situations. People forget to follow the safety guidelines for operating these machines. But the basic rule to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning is simple. Never run a generator in an enclosed area. The same applies to any fuel-based engine or machine.
Fuel Combustion Process
Fossil fuel-based generators burn fuel to produce energy. And, in the process, they produce either carbon dioxide (CO2) and carbon monoxide (CO). Either of these gases production depends on the combustion process of the fuel. Incomplete combustion will produce carbon monoxide. While complete combustion will produce carbon dioxide.
Being less stable than carbon dioxide. Carbon monoxide can easily react with oxygen to produce carbon dioxide. However, a sufficient quantity of oxygen must be present for this to happen effectively.
In itself, carbon dioxide is not dangerous to health. But it has some negative effects on the environment. For instance, being a greenhouse gas. Carbon dioxide can trap heat in the atmosphere. Causing the greenhouse effect and global warming. Nonetheless, the gas is highly beneficial to plants as it is relevant in the process of photosynthesis.
Carbon Monoxide in an Enclosed Space
The reason why carbon monoxide is so dangerous is that it is odorless, tasteless, and colorless. These properties of carbon monoxide make it very difficult to detect it’s presence in the room. If it enters the body system; carbon monoxide can displace oxygen from its hemoglobin bond. Making the body run out of oxygen in no time.
CO poisoning is a common cause of death. For instance, CO poisoning from fuel-burning equipment. Causes at least 200 deaths each year in the United States. And over 300 carbon monoxide related deaths and 200 hospitalizations are in Canada each year.
Although any fuel-burning equipment can produce carbon monoxide. Fuel-powered generators are a common source. Since fuel-based generators exist in homes, offices, and businesses. It is common for CO poisoning to occur. Also, gas cookers are another primary source of carbon monoxide poisoning. Several reports reveal numerous deaths due to CO poisoning from this source.
Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Generator owners should always follow certain safety precautions. The safety precautions are all centered around avoiding the use of generators in an enclosed environment or indoors. Due to its unique characteristics, carbon monoxide can wreak havoc without notice or detection.
However, it is actually possible to detect the presence of carbon monoxide in your home with a carbon monoxide detector. In fact, CO detectors are highly advisable for every place incorporating portable generators. Home standby generators also produce carbon monoxide; however, since they are typically designed to be installed outdoors with safety building codes; they don’t pose the same threat. Either way, only use your generator in a well-ventilated environment. The generator and its exhaust should be placed outdoors. Several feet away from the vents, doors, and windows. That way, any CO produced will be converted to carbon dioxide (CO2). And thereby eliminating the danger involved.
Furthermore, it is a bad idea to use your generator in a garage. Because the garage’s enclosures can still prevent the oxidation of the gas. And thereby pose dangers to anyone in the garage.
Some cases of carbon monoxide death occurred even when the generator was placed outside the building. This is why it is advisable to direct the generator’s exhaust away from the building. This is necessary to prevent fumes from getting into the house due to winds. Although CO poisoning is common. It is possible to avoid such menace from happening altogether. Always follow the safety precautions and read the user manual of your machine carefully.
Extra Safety Technology
Carbon monoxide poisoning is truly a global problem. And so it demands urgent attention. Interestingly, such a challenge can be effectively addressed with safety technologies. Some generators now include a safety feature in the form of a built-in sensor. Whose job is to shut the engine off if the carbon monoxide fumes reach a critical level in an enclosed area.
Interestingly, these safety features are already being tested in some of the best generators. And they are expected to save lives if finally incorporated in all fuel-based machines.
On its own, this technology can effectively tackle the problem. However, even with these safety features installed; you should still apply relevant safety precautions. And never run your generator indoors or in an enclosed space. You should allow at least 20 feet from any occupied space.
CO poisoning is a major cause of death and hospitalization. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission; carbon monoxide poisoning while using portable generators is responsible for close to 1,000 deaths and over 15,000 hospitalizations. While it is difficult to detect, symptoms like dizziness, confusion, headaches, and chest pain mark its inhalation. When inhaled in a large amount, the silent killer gas can cause arrhythmias, seizures, loss of consciousness, and even death. However, this menace can be addressed or prevented. By obeying relevant safety precautions as regards the use of fuel-based generators and incorporating new technologies.