Owning a vacation home can be an exciting adventure, offering a relaxing getaway for you and a lucrative rental opportunity for others. However, this adventure comes with responsibilities that stretch beyond just maintaining the aesthetic appeal of your property.
From rental laws to safety check ups, there is a lot that goes into protecting your investment. One such responsibility - often overlooked yet critically important - is safeguarding your home and its occupants from the silent, invisible, but deadly threat of carbon monoxide (CO). Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that 1,244 people died from carbon monoxide poisoning in 2022 in the United States alone.
Safety and loss prevention are very real and fluid parts of being a vacation homeowner. It can be difficult to stay on top of it all, and that’s why Safer VRs exists. We’re here to help you create safe vacation rentals.
To help you take one thing off your to-do list, we’ve created this guide to assessing carbon monoxide risks in your vacation rental and walked you through everything you need to know to protect your guests.
Carbon Monoxide is a tasteless, odorless gas that can be released both naturally and through man-made processes. This stealthy gas is poisonous and can be deadly to humans. It is lighter than air and can easily go undetected, leaving tragedy in the wake of those who are unknowingly exposed.
When hydrocarbons from fuels burn incompletely, carbon monoxide is produced any time fuels are burned. However, the potential hazard occurs when it builds up indoors and exposes the people and animals who breathe it.
The danger of carbon monoxide exposure comes from its affinity for the oxygen-transporting molecule that lives in your red blood cells. Commonly referred to as hemoglobin, this molecule carries oxygen to vital tissues and organs. Carbon monoxide hinders this process by binding to the hemoglobin and inhibiting its ability to effectively transport the oxygen your body so desperately needs.
Breathing in carbon monoxide gas can leave lasting health effects.
Commonly referred to as the silent killer, carbon monoxide poisoning can occur quickly and without warning. The most commonly reported symptoms of CO poisoning are:
Symptoms are sometimes described as flu-like and can mask themselves as other illnesses. Often, CO exposure causes a loss of consciousness, which can lead to death in their sleep. Exposure can also result in arrhythmias, seizures, and permanent brain damage.
As a vacation rental owner, you potentially have several different sources of CO that increase the potential risk of carbon monoxide poisoning in your home.
Gas appliances can be used for many different purposes in a vacation rental. Commonly used for cooking or heating, these gas appliances (such as gas stoves, ovens, and grills) run off a combustion process that occurs while burning propane or natural gas. Incomplete combustion can occur, producing deadly Carbon Monoxide gas.
Outdoor appliances like camp stoves and charcoal grills can also release low levels of CO.
While fireplaces are often a great selling point when listing a vacation rental, they do pose an inherent risk that should not be ignored. Proper ventilation of a fireplace is essential to preventing dangerous CO leaks.
It’s not just venting a fireplace that’s important. Your whole rental home should be properly ventilated. It’s important to make sure that you have properly functioning exhaust fans, as well as encourage guests to use natural ventilation when using gas appliances.
Opening a window or door can be an easy way to let fresh air flow and provide protection from levels of carbon monoxide.
As a vacation rental owner, it’s also important that you educate your guests about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. It may be useful to include information in your welcome packet, letting them know the risks and the methods you’ve employed to protect them. These may include some of the following steps.
1. Install Carbon Monoxide Detectors
The first line of defense against carbon monoxide poisoning is to make sure your home has carbon monoxide alarms installed. At a minimum, your vacation home should have one for each floor, and there may be specific regulations for your area, so be sure to research them.
Experts strongly suggest having a CO detector in each bedroom. They can be placed anywhere in a room as carbon monoxide is not a dense gas and fills a room evenly. It’s important to routinely test the detectors, making sure an alarm sounds, and clean them to make sure dust does not build up over the sensors.
Even if the alarms are hardwired, it’s important to make sure they have a battery backup installed.
2. Perform Regular Appliance Maintenance
Routinely inspecting your gas appliances is an essential step you should be taking to protect your guests. Remember to inspect and perform regular maintenance on all fuel-burning appliances in your home, including
You should regularly check your gas lines and connections for any signs of wear or corrosion. This can help you identify potential hazardous leaks before they occur.
It is also important to regularly check connections and inspect burners and vents and all gas appliances. Be sure to inspect vents and make sure they are free from obstruction and can prevent carbon monoxide buildup in the event of a dangerous leak.
3. Have Chimneys and Fireplaces Inspected Regularly
If your home has a fireplace or chimney it is essential to have annual inspections from a certified professional. They can identify potential issues such as creosote buildup, which can pose a serious fire hazard. They also will be able to check for cracks, blockages, or damage to the flue that could prevent proper ventilation.
In addition to having a professional inspect your fireplace, you should also clean it regularly and ensure guests are using seasoned wood and following all the latest fire safety recommendations.
4. Have Gas and Heating Systems Regularly Inspected
In addition to having chimneys and fireplaces inspected yearly, qualified technicians must inspect any gas or heating systems annually. An experienced technician will be able to identify potential gas leaks, faulty valves, or any damaged parts that could lead to dangerous situations. Timely detection of these issues can prevent big problems and potentially prevent costly repairs.
You also need to check the systems for visible wear regularly, ensure filters are clean, and make sure the area surrounding the system is free of debris. This ensures proper ventilation in the event of a gas leak.
5. Educate your Guests about the Dangers of CO Poisoning
A big part of avoiding potential risks is being prepared. Take the time to educate your guests on the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. Include information in your welcome packet or check-in email that details the dangers of CO poisoning and what guests should look out for.
Be sure to highlight safety measures for using any gas appliances like gas ranges or space heaters and advise guests never to use any fuel-burning appliance in an enclosed space like an attached garage.
Include information about the preventative measures you’ve taken to protect them. Also include information about what to do if exposure is suspected and how to find healthcare, such as the nearest emergency room.
As a vacation owner, keeping your guests safe from carbon monoxide exposure is just one of many safety considerations you should be aware of. Here at Safer VRs, we can help you create safety checklists and processes to protect your guests and your revenue.
Refer to our online courses, memberships, and coaching opportunities to protect your investment.
Don’t rely on copy and paste answers. Your properties and guests deserve personalized attention to ensure your going above and beyond in your safety measures. In this call, we’ll discuss your concerns, establish solutions, and learn how you can mitigate risks.