Safety First! Garage Carbon Monoxide is Not to be Taken Lightly.
Garage carbon monoxide poisoning is a real problem—and could be an invisible killer. Carbon monoxide gas is produced by incomplete combustion, such as what happens in your car’s engine, especially when you first start it up in the morning. If you breathe it in, the gas will bond with your red blood cells so tightly that oxygen can’t get in. Breathe in a little, and you get a headache. Breathe in a bit more, and you can’t think clearly. Breathe in a bit more, and you pass out and maybe die.
But since carbon monoxide has no color or odor, there is no way to know whether you’re breathing it until you start having symptoms—and since one symptom is not thinking clearly, you might not be able to save yourself.
What all this has to do with garages is that when you run your car in a garage (say, to warm it up in the morning), carbon monoxide levels can rise to dangerous levels in just a minute or two, even if the garage door is wide open. And when you drive away and close the door, the gas stays in there for hours—or, if you have an attached garage, the gas will leak into your house and start to poison your family and pets. The poisoning might be mild, or it might not. Susceptibility to the gas varies. Maybe you’re saying you have a carbon monoxide detector in your living room, so you’re safe. Not necessarily. It takes several hours for the gas to build up in your house, so if the alarm goes off, your spouse or babysitter won’t be able to find a possible source of carbon monoxide (the source drove away hours earlier) and will likely assume there is just something wrong with the alarm.
There are a couple of things you can do to keep yourself and your family safe from garage carbon monoxide poisoning.
First, never run your car inside your garage, for any reason (never burn anything indoors that isn’t properly vented—no cookouts inside your garage, either, for example). Get everybody inside the car and open the garage door before starting the vehicle, then drive out promptly. If you can vent the garage afterwards, so much the better. When you return, shut the vehicle off promptly.
Second, consider putting a carbon monoxide detector inside your garage. There are even models that will automatically open the garage door if carbon monoxide reaches dangerous levels. As we have seen, an open door does not prevent poisoning, but could buy a little more time. The important thing is that a detector inside your garage will alert you to the problem promptly, so you won’t think there is something wrong with the detector and ignore the alarm.
Garages are useful things, but they have their risks. Fortunately, most of those risks can be minimized by the proper use of the door.