Detecting a deadly gas before you crank up the heat

William Prichard tests CO levels with this monitoring device.

Tri-State residents are turning on the heat this week as nighttime temperatures drop near freezing. But keeping safe and warm will come at a costly price if you're not maintaining the gas appliances around your home.

Carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless and tasteless, but most importantly, it's toxic in large amounts.

"If you don't take care of it immediately, it will cause death," William Prichard said. "You'll pass out and there's nothing that's going to bring you around until you get out of that carbon monoxide."

Prichard with Peter's Heating and Air Conditioning spent his morning monitoring CO levels inside an area home. He knows the effects high levels of it can have on someone when their furnace, water heater or gas stove begin to burn improperly.

"If you're lightheaded, nausea, headaches, kind of lethargic when you're awake, if you catch it, then that's a good possibility that you have carbon monoxide in the house," Prichard said. In which case, "we'll advise them to open their windows and shut their units off if at all possible until we get there to find out why their testers are going off."

Quincy Firefighter Michael Dade says his department makes anywhere from one to two trips a day on calls for CO detector warnings, most of which are proactive calls.

"Definitely, the numbers go up when it starts to get colder out," Dade said.

Unfortunately, not everyone has a CO detector.

"We still run into those houses that still aren't compliant yet," Dade said.

Dade says a CO detector is just as important as a smoke detector, both of which are required in homes across Illinois.

"You need to have one on each floor of your home and one within 15 feet of the rooms where somebody sleeps in," Dade said.

Dade also suggests keeping the manual close by, as many detectors are equipped with multiple warnings and signals.

"It's important to know exactly what you're detectors are telling you if they do go off," Dade said.

It's the only way to detect the presence of carbon monoxide, before it's too late.

It's also recommended you have your heating and cooling units checked every year to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.