While most homeowners know how to safely operate their fireplaces, stoves, and other heating appliances, many are not aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning or how to protect their family from it. Although it is infrequently talked about in the news, carbon monoxide poisoning is responsible for as many as 400 fatalities each year. It also causes thousands more to become sick, some even resulting in hospitalization.
Thankfully, carbon monoxide poisoning can be easily prevented by taking certain precautions. By knowing the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning and taking the steps to prevent it, homeowners can protect their families and safely enjoy their fuel burning appliances all winter long.
What is carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and poisonous gas. Because it is virtually impossible to detect without special devices, it is often called the “silent killer.”
What causes carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide is a naturally occurring byproduct of combustion reactions. This means that it is created by every fuel source, including coal, gasoline, kerosene, oil, propane, and wood. Because it is created by every fire, switching fuel sources to minimize the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning is unlikely to make a significant impact.
Along with being created by almost any fuel source, carbon monoxide gas comes from a wide range of heating appliances. It is typically associated with fireplaces, stoves, grills, furnaces, space heaters, and water heaters, and is even created by vehicles. However, when properly vented these fuel burning appliances pose little to no risk to homeowners and their families.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning
When present in small amounts, carbon monoxide poisoning causes flu-like symptoms. Symptoms include headache, nausea, and a feeling of sleepiness. If exposure continues, these symptoms will continue to worsen. Long term exposure to carbon monoxide can cause dizziness, impaired coordination and vision, and shortness of breath. In high concentrations, it can lead to coma or death.
If you suspect you may be suffering from the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, move everyone in the home immediately to a fresh air location. This can be outdoors or next to an open window or door. Before returning to the home, call local authorities or the Poison Control hotline at 1-800-222-1222.
How to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning
Most of the ways to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning are common sense safety measures that families already do. The most important step homeowners can take to protect themselves and their families is to install carbon monoxide detectors on every floor of their homes, especially in areas near fireplaces, furnaces, water heaters, or other fuel burning appliances. These monitors should be regularly tested and should be replaced every five to seven years.
Homeowners can also prevent carbon monoxide poisoning by regularly servicing and maintaining their heating appliances. Venting and ductwork should be inspected for any damage or blockages that could cause carbon monoxide to back up into the home. Likewise, grills or emergency generators should never be used indoors or in confined spaces as this can cause the gas to accumulate. Finally, running cars should never be left in a garage – even when the door is open – as the carbon monoxide can quickly fill the space and affect the vehicle’s air supply.
By performing regular maintenance and taking common sense precautions, most appliances pose no threat of causing carbon monoxide poisoning. To have your heating appliances, flues, or vents inspected, contact Mountain Man Fireplace and Chimney today!