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Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

The temperatures drop and we flip on our furnaces. Tossing clothes in our gas dryers and cooking on gas stove tops. We light fires in our fireplaces or heating stoves and heat our water in gas-fueled water heaters. In addition, we drive cars with combustion engines.

These may be unremarkable facts of our daily lives, but we should be paying attention to all of these things. The combustion appliances that fill our homes create carbon monoxide. What happens if a system isn’t well maintained, malfunctions, or is improperly used? It puts us and our families in danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Most people know the dangers of carbon monoxide and hope to protect their families from the dangers of the gas. Nevertheless, an estimated 200 people or more die each year and thousands more are sickened by carbon monoxide in their homes. There are steps you should be taking to keep you and your family safe from the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Those steps include:

  • Performing annual maintenance and cleaning of gas- and oil-burning appliances.
    If your gas- or oil-fueled appliances or their vents fail, carbon monoxide can build up rapidly within your home. For that reason, appliances that require combustion should be cleaned and inspected at least once per year. That includes furnaces, fireplaces, heating stoves, gas-fueled clothing dryers and hot water heaters.
  • Keeping vents clear.
    Heating and dryer vents can become obstructed for a variety of reasons. Snow can pile high around outdoor vents in the winter. Animals can nest within unprotected vents. Contractors or do-it-yourself-ers can inadvertently cover vents during renovations. Check vents regularly and after major weather events to make sure they are free to exhaust your appliances.
  • Never operate combustion appliances in non-ventilated areas.
    Cars should never be left running in garages, even with the doors open. Gas generators should never be run within the home. In addition, outdoor appliances like camp stoves, portable heaters, and grills should never be operated indoors.

Install a carbon monoxide detector!

Install carbon monoxide detectors on each floor of your home and near all sleeping areas. Check your carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they are operating properly at least once a month. Replace batteries at least twice per year. (You can do this when daylight savings time switches, along with changing the batteries in your smoke detectors.)

Always make sure all family members know what to do, should the carbon monoxide detectors sound. Exit the home quickly and call 911. Do not go back into your home until the source of the carbon monoxide has been located and the leak has been fixed.

Carbon monoxide is a legitimate threat. Consequently, it can sicken or even kill. However, take precautions! Maintain your home appliances and install and maintain carbon monoxide detectors. In doing this, you can help to keep your family safe from carbon monoxide poisoning.

The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

You rely on your home heating appliances to keep your family warm and safe during the cold winter months. Whether you heat your home with a fireplace, fireplace insert, heating stove or furnace, you should be aware of the dangers and signs of carbon monoxide.


How carbon monoxide enters your homeThe Dangers of Carbon Monoxide - Idianapolis, IN -Your Chimney Sweep

A byproduct of combustion, deadly carbon monoxide can be produced by any furnace, stove or fireplace. Carbon monoxide can build up in your home if a heating appliance malfunction, or if your duct work or chimney becomes obstructed. Carbon monoxide poisoning is especially a concern in newer homes, which are more air tight, and in older homes that have newer heating appliances hooked up to older ventilation systems. Additionally, drafty older homes are often “winterized” to keep warm air in and prevent cold air from entering. While draft-free homes are more efficient, they also can allow carbon monoxide to build up when a heating appliance is improperly vented or malfunctioning.


Dangers of carbon monoxide in your home

At the very least, carbon monoxide in a home can cause flu like symptoms for the home’s inhabitants, including headaches, dizziness or fatigue. As it progresses, it can cause confusion or cause people to lose consciousness. More than 400 people die in the United State each year from carbon monoxide poisoning. An additional 20,000 people visit the emergency room, and more than 4,000 are hospitalized because of carbon monoxide poisoning each year. If anyone in your home is experiencing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, everyone should leave the house and the fire department should be called.


Detecting carbon monoxide

The best way to protect your family from carbon monoxide poisoning is to install carbon monoxide detectors on each floor of you home and within 10 feet of all bedroom doors. The carbon monoxide detectors you select should carry a seal of approval from a reputable testing laboratory. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation, and be sure to check carbon monoxide detectors and replace batteries regularly. If carbon monoxide detectors sound in your home, immediately make sure that everyone exits the home, and call 911.


Preventing carbon monoxide buildup

Your home heating systems inspected annually by a professional. Your annual chimney sweeping will ensure that your chimney is free from soot, animal nests or other debris that can prevent carbon monoxide from leaving your fireplace or stove. Fireplaces, stoves and furnaces should be cleaned and inspected to make sure they are venting and operating properly. During your annual cleaning and inspection, your technician also will verify that your chimney or ventilation system is properly sized and fitted to your furnace, fireplace or stove.
If your fireplace, chimney, stove or furnace is overdue to be cleaned and inspected by a professional, call to schedule your appointment today! Regularly servicing of your heating appliances and ventilation system is the best way to keep your family safe from the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.