With summer drawing to a close and fall weather ready to arrive, many homeowners are preparing to use their fireplaces for the first time in several months. While these wonderful heating appliances can keep our homes toasty all winter long, they can also pose a safety risk if not properly maintained and used. One of the biggest dangers when using any fireplace, stove, or heating appliance is carbon monoxide.
What is carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that is virtually impossible to notice without a carbon monoxide detector. This dangerous gas is often referred to as a “silent killer” because it is so difficult to detect.
Carbon monoxide is created when fuels are burned completely. It can be created by coal, charcoal, gasoline, kerosene, oil, propane, natural gas, and wood. In your home stoves, space heaters, furnaces, outdoor grills, fireplaces, water heaters, and vehicles all produce carbon monoxide. All fuel burning appliances have venting systems in place to prevent carbon monoxide from entering your home.
Symptoms of exposure to carbon monoxide
While fireplaces and other heating appliances have venting systems in place to prevent carbon monoxide exposure, damage or deterioration can cause them to malfunction. Because of this, it is extremely important that homeowners recognize the signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.
In small quantities, exposure to carbon monoxide will cause flu-like symptoms; sleepiness, headache, and nausea are all early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. With prolonged exposure symptoms will continue to worsen and impaired coordination, dizziness, and shortness of breath will begin to occur. Continued exposure in high concentrations can lead to coma and death.
While entirely preventable with a functioning carbon monoxide detector, carbon monoxide poisoning claims as many as 400 lives each year in the United States. If you believe you are experiencing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, immediately move outside or to another fresh air location. Emergency services and poison control should be called before reentering the home.
Preventing exposure to carbon monoxide
There are a number of easy and simple ways that homeowners can protect themselves and their family against exposure to carbon monoxide.
- Install carbon monoxide detectors on every floor, especially near heating appliances and fireplaces and outside sleeping areas
- Have all fuel burning appliances regularly inspected and maintained
- Never use generators indoors, including in sheds or outbuildings
- Do not allow cars to idle in garages, even when the garage door is open
- Move grills away from windows and doors
- Do not turn on or run ovens or stoves as a way to heat a home
Fear of carbon monoxide exposure should never keep you from using and enjoying your fireplace. However, it is important that homeowners are aware of the dangers that carbon monoxide can cause. For more information on how to protect your family against carbon monoxide or to schedule preventative fireplace maintenance, contact Lords Chimney today.