Your home’s heating system — whether it’s a furnace, gas fireplace, or pellet stove — keeps your family warm and cozy all winter long. However, your home heating system could pose a danger to you and your family: Carbon monoxide poisoning. As homes become more air tight and new heating systems are retrofitted onto older ventilation systems, everyone should be aware of the risk for carbon monoxide in the home.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning
Carbon monoxide poisoning can be life threatening. The overt symptoms are strong headaches, dizziness, confusion, nausea, weakness, blurred vision or loss of consciousness. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should leave their home and seek medical attention. Because often the symptoms of carbon monoxide can be as subtle as a headache, all homes should be equipped with carbon monoxide detectors. If those detectors start to go off, leave your home immediately and call 911.
Sources of carbon monoxide
Carbon monoxide is produced by the incomplete combustion of fuels, including the wood, natural gas, or propane you use to heat your home. Depending on the type of heating appliance you have, your appliance may either burn hot enough to combust all traceable levels of carbon monoxide, or it will be vented out of your home through a chimney or ventilation system. If a ventilation system becomes blocked, such as from soot, debris, or nesting animals, carbon monoxide can be forced back into your home rather than exiting through the chimney or ductwork. A malfunctioning appliance also can cause a carbon monoxide hazard.
Additionally, in some older homes when newer, more efficient furnaces or stoves are installed, sometimes they are vented through older chimneys or ductwork that is not properly sized for the appliance. That can cause a carbon monoxide hazard.
In newer homes, where doors, windows, and walls are more airtight, heating appliances can have a hard time getting the oxygen they need to properly combust their fuel, which could lead to the furnace, stove, or fireplace letting off carbon monoxide.
Preventing carbon monoxide hazards
The best way to prevent carbon monoxide from threatening your family is to have your heating system serviced annual by certified professionals.
Chimneys should be swept and inspected to make sure they are cleared of any soot or fire byproducts, unobstructed from any debris or animals, and free from any cracks or damage that could allow carbon monoxide to seep into your home.
Heating appliances, including fireplaces, gas stoves, pellet stoves, and furnaces should be serviced and inspected by professionals before the cold-weather season begins each year to make sure that they are functioning efficiently and safely and not producing dangerous carbon monoxide.
An inspection also will examine whether your home’s ventilation system is suited to your appliance. That ensures that the gases created by your furnace, stove, or fireplace is exiting your home properly and that your heating appliance is getting the oxygen it needs to burn its fuel entirely.
Schedule your routine chimney, fireplace, and heating stove maintenance today to keep you family safe from carbon monoxide this winter.
As the weather grows cold, more and more people turn to fireplaces, stoves, and other heating appliances to keep themselves, their families, and their homes warm. What many fail to realize is that these same appliances may create a health and safety risk if they are not properly maintained. One major concern, especially during the heavy use months of winter, is carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carbon monoxide poisoning kills as many as 400 people each year in the United States. Homeowners should be aware of what causes it, the symptoms of poisoning, and the simple steps they can take to prevent it.
What is carbon monoxide gas?
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and extremely toxic gas that is produced by burning fuels. Carbon monoxide is often called the “silent killer” because due to its properties, it is impossible to detect without specific equipment.
Its many sources include burning coal, wood, charcoal, oil, natural gas, kerosene, and propane. This means that most fireplaces, stoves, grills, space heaters, water heaters, furnaces, and even vehicles produce carbon monoxide gas. However, these appliances are normally either properly vented or located outdoors so they pose little to no risk to homeowners and their families.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning
When exposed to small quantities of the gas, people suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning will begin to develop flu-like symptoms. This will include a feeling of sleepiness accompanied by headache and nausea. In medium concentrations or with prolonged exposure, these symptoms will continue to worsen in addition to impaired coordination and vision, shortness of breath, and dizziness. In extremely high concentrations, carbon monoxide poisoning can even lead to coma or death.
If you believe that you are experiencing the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, immediately move to a fresh air location. Ideally this is outside, but can also be next to an open door or window. Call Poison Control and local emergency services before reentering the building.
How to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning
Carbon monoxide poisoning is entirely preventable by taking a number of common sense steps to avoid exposure. The primary – and easiest – way homeowners can protect themselves and their families against carbon monoxide poisoning is to install carbon monoxide detectors on every floor of the house and in areas near fuel burning appliances such as fireplaces, stoves, or furnaces.
Next, homeowners should have all heating or fuel burning appliances in the home annually maintained. This ensures that anything that could cause carbon monoxide poisoning is still in good working condition and has not been damaged in any way. Doing this also ensures that all venting and ductwork is clean and free from blockages, allowing carbon monoxide to safely exit the home.
Generators and grills should never be used indoors or in enclosed spaces such as garages or sheds. Likewise, they should be kept away from open windows as this may allow the carbon monoxide they produce to enter a home. In addition, stoves and ovens should never be used for heat. Finally, vehicles should never be left running to “warm up” in garages, even if the door is open. The large amounts of carbon monoxide exhaust that is produced can quickly fill the small space.
With regular maintenance of heating appliances and a few preventative measures, homeowners can easily protect their families against carbon monoxide. For questions about carbon monoxide and your fireplace or stove, contact Lords Chimney today!
A deadly toxic gas that can enter your home if you have venting problems with your chimney or other heating unit, carbon monoxide is responsible for killing over 400 Americans by unintentional poisoning annually. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), carbon monoxide poisoning also sends over 20,000 people to the emergency room, and more than 4,000 people end up having to be hospitalized due to carbon monoxide poisoning. Known as the “silent killer” (you cannot see or smell it), carbon monoxide makes it very important to have your chimney inspected annually to ensure your chimney system is venting properly.
If you live in the greater Houston area and are looking for a pleasant service experience and the knowledge that your job was done correctly, give Lords Chimney a call at 281-497-4000.
Our Chimney Safety Institute of America-certified technicians, who are experienced with solving carbon monoxide issues, would like to tell you more about this toxic gas that can silently enter your home and cause serious health damage:
What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?
Headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, weakness, chest pain, and confusion are all symptoms of low-level carbon monoxide poisoning. Since these symptoms are so similar to the flu or the common cold, carbon monoxide poisoning can be difficult to diagnose. If you persist in having these symptoms, ask your doctor for a carbon monoxide level blood test. High-level symptoms include organ damage, loss of consciousness and death.
How does carbon monoxide poisoning work?
For some reason, your red blood cells would rather pick up carbon monoxide than oxygen. If there is a lot of carbon monoxide in the air, your body may replace all of the oxygen in your blood with carbon monoxide, blocking oxygen from entering your body, causing tissue damage and resulting, possibly, in death. Tissues can also be destroyed by carbon monoxide teaming up with the proteins in tissues.
How do I prevent carbon monoxide leaks from my chimney?
Have your fireplace and chimney cleaned and inspected by a reputable chimney company like Lords Chimney every year. If you are purchasing a gas fireplace, be sure it carries the seal of a national testing group, such as the CSA Group. If your heat ever goes out, never use a portable flameless chemical heater indoors. Although they do not have a flame, they do burn gas and can cause carbon monoxide to build up inside your house. Most importantly, install a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector in your home, and check and/or replace the batteries when you reset your clocks in the spring and fall.
How do I vent my gas appliances properly?
Firstly, never burn anything in a fireplace that is not vented. Secondly, never patch a vent pipe with tape, gum, or anything else, which could cause carbon monoxide to build up more quickly. Thirdly, your indoor vent pipes should go up slightly as they go towards the outside. This helps prevent toxic gases from leaking if the joints or pipes are not fitted properly.
If you have any more questions about carbon monoxide, contact us today. Our experienced staff can answer whatever else you need to know about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.