If you’re going to be using any kind of fuel burning appliance, a generator, or warming up your car, you need to be aware of a hidden danger. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a very real threat, and often goes undetected until it’s too late.
Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas, with no color or odor, so it can be present without you being aware of it. It is produced by products such as gas heaters, boilers, gas water heaters, wood burning stoves and fireplaces, portable generators and automobiles. Carbon monoxide levels from these and other products can reach deadly levels quickly, so it’s important to take safety precautions.
Carbon monoxide is produced by devices that burn fuels. Therefore, any fuel-burning appliance in your home is a potential CO source. Electrical heaters and electric water heaters, toasters, etc., do not produce CO under any circumstances. Under normal circumstances, CO should not be detectable in the typical home or workplace.
When appliances are kept in good working condition, they produce little CO. But improperly operating or improperly vented appliances can produce elevated — even fatal — CO concentrations in your home. Likewise, using kerosene heaters or charcoal grills indoors, or running a car in a garage, can cause levels high enough to result in CO poisoning.
Common sources of CO include the following wood or gas fueled appliances:
- Oil/Gas Room heaters
- Oil/Gas Boilers
- Charcoal grills
- Gas Hobs
- Gas Ovens
- Gas Water heaters
- Automobiles run in closed garages
- Portable generators
- Wood burning stoves
The most common occurrence in winter months is simply warming up your car. Never start your car in a closed garage, and better yet, back your car out of the garage and away from the house to warm it up.
If using a gas space heater that is unvented, make sure the room around it is well ventilated. Open doors to adjacent rooms to allow for more air flow. You should never use an unvented heater when you are sleeping, as undetected carbon monoxide can be fatal.
Gas ovens should never be left open to dry clothing or heat a room. The oven door should remain tightly shut when the gas is turned on. Furthermore, when cooking with a gas hob, you should have an extract fan that is vented to allow the gases to escape to the outdoors.
Before using your fireplace, make sure the flue is open and the chimney is free of blockage or corrosion. Back draft from the fireplace can cause carbon monoxide to enter your home.
When using a wood stove, make sure the doors fit tightly to prevent gas leakage.
Do not use a charcoal grills inside your home, or even inside your camper or tent. Carbon monoxide from charcoal, used in unventilated areas is extremely dangerous.
If the need to use a portable generator should arise, make sure you are using it to the manufacturer’s specifications. Never use it in an enclosed space, as carbon monoxide can be trapped inside your garage or home and reach dangerous levels.
In addition to proper usage of your appliances, you should have your home inspected and appliances serviced yearly, to avoid potential dangers.
After you have had appliances checked and you’ve ensured that you are using everything properly, your next best line of defense is to install carbon monoxide detectors in your home. Carbon monoxide detectors work much like smoke detectors as they emit a loud, piercing beep when dangerous gases are detected.
If you hear your alarm sound, or if you don’t have an alarm and you begin to experience symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, get every member of your family outdoors immediately. The symptoms of poisoning are as follows:
Irritability, confusion or memory loss
Fatigue or shortness of breath
As symptoms progress, you may experience flu-like symptoms such as nausea and vomiting or have chest pain and become disoriented.