Fireplaces, heaters, and stoves are used most during the cold months of fall and winter. While these heating appliances keep our homes warm, cozy, and comfortable, their use also increases the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. To keep you and your family safe this winter, it is important that everyone with a heating appliance in their home recognizes the signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.
What is carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, tasteless, and odorless gas. Because it is virtually undetectable without special equipment, it is often called the “silent killer”.
Carbon monoxide gas is created during all combustion reactions. Whether your heating appliance burns gas, wood, pellets, coal, propane, or kerosene, it is creating carbon monoxide gas. While all fireplaces, stoves, and heating appliances are built and designed to safely vent this dangerous gas, malfunctions can cause carbon monoxide to build up in your home instead. Common causes of carbon monoxide buildup include running cars in garages, malfunctioning furnaces, or improper fireplace venting.
Signs of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Because carbon monoxide gas can be so difficult to detect, it is important that homeowners recognize the signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide poisoning commonly mimics flu-like symptoms; this includes headache, nausea, and sleepiness. After prolonged exposure, symptoms can worsen to include cognitive impairment, decreased coordination, and vision problems. Without seeking treatment, carbon monoxide poisoning can lead to coma and even death.
If you believe you are experiencing any of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, move to a fresh air area immediately; if weather prevents you from going outdoors, stand by an open door or window. Call emergency services and have them evaluate the carbon monoxide levels in your home before returning inside.
Preventing carbon monoxide poisoning.
While carbon monoxide is a threat that should not be ignored, there are a number of easy, common sense ways to protect your family against this harmful gas.
- Install carbon monoxide detectors.
Just like smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors should be installed on every floor of your home as well as outside sleeping areas. Test batteries at least every six months, replacing as needed. Carbon monoxide detectors should be replaced every 7-10 years to stay up with modern safety standards.
- Inspect fireplaces annually.
Fireplaces and stoves should be professionally inspected annually to ensure they are undamaged and venting properly.
- Warm cars up outdoors.
Always pull cars out of the driveway before warming them up or allowing them to idle; carbon monoxide can build up in the enclosed space even if the garage door is open.
- Run generators outdoors.
Never run generators in garages, crawl spaces, sheds, or other enclosed areas.
- Use vented appliances.
Whenever possible, replace ventless or vent free heaters with models that vent to the outdoors.
By understanding the signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning and taking steps to prevent it, you can keep your family safe. Plus, you can enjoy your fireplace all winter long. For more information on carbon monoxide poisoning, or to schedule your next fireplace inspection, contact Coopertown Services today.