Carbon Monoxide vs. Carbon Dioxide

What you need to know about these two gases.

BY LAUREN SLADE

September 17, 2020

3 129 Carbon-Monoxide-vs.-Carbon-Dioxide-What-to-Know Desktop

Carbon monoxide (CO) and carbon dioxide (CO2) often get confused with one another because of their similarities. Not only do that have similar names and chemical symbols, but they also have many of the same physical characteristics, such as being odorless gases. Generally, mixing these up isn’t much of a problem, but when it comes to your actual sensors, it is very important. Since they are both completely different chemicals, one sensor might detect carbon monoxide, but not detect carbon dioxide. Having sensors that look for both is crucial.

Both chemicals are invisible, odorless, and deadly. Usually they are only found in trace amounts and won’t cause any harm, but these gases can build up if the conditions are right.

What is carbon monoxide?

CO is a common gas found in trace amounts in our atmosphere. It is also a biproduct of the partial oxidation of methane during combustion. According to the CDC, each year, more than 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning not linked to fires, more than 20,000 visit the emergency room, and over 4,000 are hospitalized. To prevent CO-related catastrophes, get the facts. A good rule of thumb is if something is burning, you’re likely creating carbon monoxide. It can also leak from appliances in your house or if your catalytic converter on your car is not working properly. It’s important to have at least one carbon monoxide sensor in your home.

Symptoms of CO poisoning

Symptoms from carbon monoxide poisoning are often drastic. If you feel extremely sick out of nowhere it’s probably a good idea to leave the location you are in, just to be on the safe side. Keep in mind that you may not knowingly experience any symptoms if you are sleeping or under the influence of alcohol or other substances. The symptoms are very similar to the flu and include:

  • Headache

  • Dizziness

  • Weakness

  • Upset stomach

  • Vomiting

  • Chest pain

  • Confusion

Preventing CO poisoning at home

If you don’t already have a carbon monoxide detector in your home, you should consider installing one as soon as possible. They are inexpensive, relatively easy to install, and will offer you unparalleled protection against CO poisoning.

If you have CO detectors already, make sure that you are replacing the batteries at least once every five years. Your detector should be within hearing of any area you might be sleeping. You might also consider getting a sensor that has a digital readout that will continuously tell you the CO levels in your home, or have your sensors connected to a smart home hub that will warn you throughout the house.

Make sure to check on your heating system, water heaters, and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances you might have in your home. If you suspect any of these types of appliances of having a malfunction or leaking, have a professional come and take a look.

Other tips:

  • If you’re running your house on a generator, make sure that your CO detectors are running on a battery backup. Power outages can be a common time for a gas leak or buildup to occur.

  • Don’t burn any charcoal inside a closed environment, especially inside the house. Anytime you burn charcoal, make sure there is constant air flow.

  • Whenever you do repairs on any ventilation shaft make sure that you use the proper materials and tools. Patching a ventilation pipe with duct tape can cause leaks.

  • Chemical heaters can emit carbon monoxide even if they don’t have a flame. It’s generally good practice to never use them indoors.

  • If you have a camping stove that uses gas, avoid using it indoors.

  • Never use your gas stove or oven to heat up your house.

  • Make sure you don’t have any built-up debris blocking your chimney. It’s generally good practice to clean it once a year.

  • If you smell any odor coming from gas equipment inside your home, have an expert service it.

  • Don’t use a gas-powered generator inside your home. It’s generally best practice to have it running at least 20 feet away from an open window or door.

What is carbon dioxide?

Carbon dioxide is also naturally occurring and common in our atmosphere. CO2 is the gas plants need to survive and is a biproduct of animal respiration, fermentation, combustion, and other chemical reactions. It is also the gas that most vehicles emit that have a catalytic converter. CO2 is also a common gas pressurized inside cans.

Since carbon dioxide is slightly denser than air (as opposed to carbon monoxide which is slightly lighter), if it leaks in large quantities either naturally or unnaturally, it can cause a cloud to linger at surface level. There are times when natural events can cause huge clouds of CO2 to emit into the atmosphere, which can be extremely dangerous.

Symptoms of CO2 poisoning

While CO2 leaks are extremely rare, it’s still important to know the symptoms. CO2 poisoning is different than carbon monoxide poisoning, and symptoms include:

  • Disorientation

  • Increased heart rate

  • Muscle tremors

  • Shortness of breath

  • Acidic taste

Carbon dioxide has a chemical reaction with saliva that causes an acidic taste in your mouth. In addition to occurrences being rare, it is also fairly recognizable. If you think there is a chance you are experiencing carbon dioxide poisoning, make sure to leave the area as quickly as possible.

Which sensors do I need?

Carbon dioxide is statistically rarer, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a sensor in your home. Carbon monoxide is more common, and it’s ideal to have several sensors throughout your home, as it can happen to pretty much anyone. If you’re worried about CO poisoning, consider professional monitoring by a security company that connects your sensors to your security system. If you are interested in having your sensors monitored by a professional, get a free quote with Brinks Home Security™ today.

Lauren Slade is a Dallas-based writer and editor.

Share via:

Carbon Monoxide vs. Carbon Dioxide

What you need to know about these two gases.

BY LAUREN SLADE

September 17, 2020

Carbon monoxide (CO) and carbon dioxide (CO2) often get confused with one another because of their similarities. Not only do that have similar names and chemical symbols, but they also have many of the same physical characteristics, such as being odorless gases. Generally, mixing these up isn’t much of a problem, but when it comes to your actual sensors, it is very important. Since they are both completely different chemicals, one sensor might detect carbon monoxide, but not detect carbon dioxide. Having sensors that look for both is crucial.

Both chemicals are invisible, odorless, and deadly. Usually they are only found in trace amounts and won’t cause any harm, but these gases can build up if the conditions are right.

What is carbon monoxide?

CO is a common gas found in trace amounts in our atmosphere. It is also a biproduct of the partial oxidation of methane during combustion. According to the CDC, each year, more than 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning not linked to fires, more than 20,000 visit the emergency room, and over 4,000 are hospitalized. To prevent CO-related catastrophes, get the facts. A good rule of thumb is if something is burning, you’re likely creating carbon monoxide. It can also leak from appliances in your house or if your catalytic converter on your car is not working properly. It’s important to have at least one carbon monoxide sensor in your home.

Symptoms of CO poisoning

Symptoms from carbon monoxide poisoning are often drastic. If you feel extremely sick out of nowhere it’s probably a good idea to leave the location you are in, just to be on the safe side. Keep in mind that you may not knowingly experience any symptoms if you are sleeping or under the influence of alcohol or other substances. The symptoms are very similar to the flu and include:

  • Headache

  • Dizziness

  • Weakness

  • Upset stomach

  • Vomiting

  • Chest pain

  • Confusion

Preventing CO poisoning at home

If you don’t already have a carbon monoxide detector in your home, you should consider installing one as soon as possible. They are inexpensive, relatively easy to install, and will offer you unparalleled protection against CO poisoning.

If you have CO detectors already, make sure that you are replacing the batteries at least once every five years. Your detector should be within hearing of any area you might be sleeping. You might also consider getting a sensor that has a digital readout that will continuously tell you the CO levels in your home, or have your sensors connected to a smart home hub that will warn you throughout the house.

Make sure to check on your heating system, water heaters, and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances you might have in your home. If you suspect any of these types of appliances of having a malfunction or leaking, have a professional come and take a look.

Other tips:

  • If you’re running your house on a generator, make sure that your CO detectors are running on a battery backup. Power outages can be a common time for a gas leak or buildup to occur.

  • Don’t burn any charcoal inside a closed environment, especially inside the house. Anytime you burn charcoal, make sure there is constant air flow.

  • Whenever you do repairs on any ventilation shaft make sure that you use the proper materials and tools. Patching a ventilation pipe with duct tape can cause leaks.

  • Chemical heaters can emit carbon monoxide even if they don’t have a flame. It’s generally good practice to never use them indoors.

  • If you have a camping stove that uses gas, avoid using it indoors.

  • Never use your gas stove or oven to heat up your house.

  • Make sure you don’t have any built-up debris blocking your chimney. It’s generally good practice to clean it once a year.

  • If you smell any odor coming from gas equipment inside your home, have an expert service it.

  • Don’t use a gas-powered generator inside your home. It’s generally best practice to have it running at least 20 feet away from an open window or door.

What is carbon dioxide?

Carbon dioxide is also naturally occurring and common in our atmosphere. CO2 is the gas plants need to survive and is a biproduct of animal respiration, fermentation, combustion, and other chemical reactions. It is also the gas that most vehicles emit that have a catalytic converter. CO2 is also a common gas pressurized inside cans.

Since carbon dioxide is slightly denser than air (as opposed to carbon monoxide which is slightly lighter), if it leaks in large quantities either naturally or unnaturally, it can cause a cloud to linger at surface level. There are times when natural events can cause huge clouds of CO2 to emit into the atmosphere, which can be extremely dangerous.

Symptoms of CO2 poisoning

While CO2 leaks are extremely rare, it’s still important to know the symptoms. CO2 poisoning is different than carbon monoxide poisoning, and symptoms include:

  • Disorientation

  • Increased heart rate

  • Muscle tremors

  • Shortness of breath

  • Acidic taste

Carbon dioxide has a chemical reaction with saliva that causes an acidic taste in your mouth. In addition to occurrences being rare, it is also fairly recognizable. If you think there is a chance you are experiencing carbon dioxide poisoning, make sure to leave the area as quickly as possible.

Which sensors do I need?

Carbon dioxide is statistically rarer, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a sensor in your home. Carbon monoxide is more common, and it’s ideal to have several sensors throughout your home, as it can happen to pretty much anyone. If you’re worried about CO poisoning, consider professional monitoring by a security company that connects your sensors to your security system. If you are interested in having your sensors monitored by a professional, get a free quote with Brinks Home Security™ today.

Lauren Slade is a Dallas-based writer and editor.

Motion Detection Icon Chat Us