Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odourless, tasteless and colorless gas that can cause severe health problems after breathing too much of it. This deadly gas results from burning liquid or solid fuel in various appliances and machines, such as stoves, fireplaces, gas ranges, lawnmowers, electric generators, etc. Preventing CO poisoning requires proper maintenance of fuel-burning appliances and CO alarms. Here are more tips to avoid CO poisoning in homes and properties:
- 1. Fuel-burning appliances, such as water system, water heater, fireplaces, wood stoves, as well as the heating system should be inspected and/or serviced at least once a year by a certified professional.
- 2. CO detectors should be installed outside each sleeping area on every level of the home, as well as in other locations that are required by laws, standards or codes. It’s recommended to interconnect all CO alarms, so that when one sounds, they all do. Batteries should be replaced twice a year and CO alarms must be replaced every five years. Alarms should be tested once a month.
- 3. Gas ovens must never be used to heat up a home. Gas camp stoves or charcoal grills must also never be used indoors.
- 4. Gas appliances should be vented properly. The horizontal vent pipes of heating appliances should go up slightly to prevent CO from leaking.
- 5. When buying gas equipment, it is important to check for the seal of a national testing agency like Underwriter’s Laboratories of Canada.
- 6. Chimneys should be checked for soot, debris, and corrosion at least once a year by a professional chimney sweep.
- 7. When the fireplace is in use, the flues must be opened. The fireplace or damper should be closed only when the fire is completely out.
- 8. Gas-powered electric generators must be used with caution — they should never be run in homes, the basement or garage, and must be kept least 6 meters from windows, vents or doors.
- 9. Vehicle should not be idled inside a garage that’s attached to the house or a living space. A mechanic inspect should be hired to check the vehicle’s exhaust system once a year to prevent CO build-up in the vehicle.
- 10. The vents for the stove, fireplace, dryer, and furnace must be kept clear of snow during and after a snowstorm.
If the CO alarm goes off and no one is experiencing CO poisoning symptoms (headache, weakness, dizziness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion), windows should be opened and fuel-burning appliances must be shut off. It is imperative that a certified technician inspect and fix the problem as soon as possible. In case someone is experiencing CO poisoning, they must be taken to a hospital immediately.
Winter is the time of the year when CO poisoning occurs most often. Tips to maintain home furnaces in the cold season can be found here and information on using electric heaters safely are available here.