Carbon Monoxide Dangers

Fireplaces are a beautiful addition to any home. In addition to increasing a home’s value, they also provide comfort, warmth, and ambiance during the chilly months of fall and winter. However, fireplaces and other heating appliances can pose a risk to you and your family if they are broken or not properly maintained.

The main concern with a malfunctioning fireplace or heating appliance is carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide poisoning kills an average of nearly 400 people each year in the United States, and is responsible for sending countless others to the hospital. Because it can be deadly, homeowners should know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning as well as ways to protect their families.

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What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is sometimes referred to as the “silent killer” because it is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas. Because of this, it is virtually undetectable without specialized equipment or detectors.

What causes carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is created in nearly all combustion reactions. That means that any appliance that burns coal, gasoline, kerosene, propane, or wood can produce carbon monoxide. This includes fireplaces, furnaces, grills, space heaters, stoves, vehicles, and water heaters.

When properly vented, maintained, and free from damage, these appliances pose little risk to homeowners. It is only when damaged or in disrepair that they become a danger for leaking deadly carbon monoxide gas into your home.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning

The symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure closely mimic those of the flu. At low levels of exposure, those experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning may feel sleepy, nauseous, or have a headache. As exposure continues, symptoms will worsen and begin to include impaired coordination and vison, dizziness, and shortness of breath. With long-term exposure or in high concentrations, carbon monoxide poisoning can lead to coma and death.

How to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning

Protecting you and your family against exposure to carbon monoxide is relatively simple and includes a number of common sense solutions. First, all homes – even those without fireplaces – should have carbon monoxide detectors installed on every floor. They should be placed near heating appliances, furnaces, and water heaters as well as outside bedrooms and sleeping areas. Carbon monoxide detectors should be tested regularly, have their batteries replaced as needed, and should be replaced with newer models every 5-7 years as needed.

In addition to installing carbon monoxide detectors, homeowners should also regularly service and maintain any fuel burning appliances including furnaces, water heaters, fireplaces, and stoves. Likewise, venting and ductwork should also be annually cleaned and inspected to ensure it remains free from damage or blockages.

Homeowners can also greatly reduce their risk of exposure to carbon monoxide by keeping fuel burning appliances out of confined spaces and away from the house whenever possible. This includes not grilling near any open windows, not running generators in garages or sheds, and not leaving any cars idling in a garage, even if the garage door is open.

With regular care and upkeep of their fuel burning appliances and some simple common sense tips, homeowners can rest assured that they have a low risk of exposure to carbon monoxide. To schedule a chimney or air duct inspection or cleaning, contact the experts at Mason’s Chimney Service today!

The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

While gas and wood-burning appliances are a necessity during the winter months in almost every home, many homeowners fail to realize the danger they may pose if their heaters, stoves, furnaces, or fireplaces are not properly inspected and maintained. Carbon monoxide poisoning from malfunctioning or ill-vented heating appliances kills an average of 430 people per year in the United States. Luckily, there are some simple steps that every homeowner can take to protect themselves and their families from this deadly gas.

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What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that is created as a byproduct in most combustion reactions, including the burning of kerosene, wood, propane, and coal. It is often called the “silent killer” because it is almost undetectable.

At low levels of exposure, carbon monoxide poisoning may cause flu-like symptoms, including headache, nausea and drowsiness. In more moderate concentrations, symptoms may include impaired vision and coordination and reduced brain functions. In high concentrations, exposure to carbon monoxide can be fatal. If you believe you are experiencing the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, quickly move to a fresh-air location such as an open window or door before calling emergency personnel.

Sources of carbon monoxide

While carbon monoxide is created by almost all fuel-burning appliances, properly vented and maintained appliances pose little health risk to families. Carbon monoxide poisoning may result from faulty furnaces, cars left running in closed garages, portable generators, un-vented gas heaters, leaking chimneys, or gas stoves. Improperly maintained or blocked flues and vents may also cause carbon monoxide gas to enter a home.

Ways to reduce carbon monoxide

Luckily, there are several steps that homeowners can take to reduce their risk of exposure to deadly carbon monoxide gas. The most important preventative measure that can be taken is to have all fuel-burning heating appliances, including stoves, fireplaces, water heaters, and furnaces, inspected by a professional every year. Trained technicians, such as those at Mason’s Chimney Services are able to ensure that all venting and duct work is in good condition, intact, and unblocked.

In addition to these annual inspections, homeowners can take several common sense precautions to reduce their risk of exposure. First, even during power outages generators should never be used inside homes, garages, or sheds as carbon monoxide gas can quickly build up inside these enclosed spaces even hours after the generator has stopped running. Next, never leave stoves or ovens running as a way to heat a room or area of the house. When using space heaters, consider replacing un-vented heaters with vented ones and keep all vents to the outside clear of snow and other debris.

Finally, if you need to warm a vehicle or leave it idling for any reason, remove it from the garage. Cars should not be left running in the garage, even when the door is open. Also, before driving check the exhaust pipe to make sure it is not blocked by snow or ice, which could cause carbon monoxide to not properly vent from the vehicle.

Mason’s Chimney Service’s NCI-certified Carbon Monoxide Analysts have been specially trained to inspect most home appliances for signs of carbon monoxide leaks. In addition, they can install NSI low-level carbon monoxide monitors. These monitors provide your home and family with an extra level of protection as they are more sensitive and more accurate than the do-it-yourself devices sold in home improvement stores.