Risk of carbon monoxide poisoning increases during the winter and stormier seasons as use of gas furnaces and generators increases dramatically. Although you cannot see or smell carbon monoxide, it is responsible for more deaths than any other poison. This colorless, odorless poison is dangerous at any level including low levels which can get a person very sick, moderate levels can result in permanent neurological dysfunctions, or worse at high levels carbon monoxide may result in death.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can result whenever any fuel such as gas, kerosene, oil, wood, or charcoal is burned. The amount of carbon monoxide emitted from appliances that burn fuel yet are maintained and used properly is typically not hazardous. However, if appliances are either used incorrectly or not working properly, then dangerous levels of carbon monoxide can result. In fact, literally hundreds of accidental deaths are caused every year from carbon monoxide poisoning that results from malfunctioning or improperly used fuel-burning appliances.
Below are a few tips on how you can protect your family and yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning:
- According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, be sure to have your fuel-burning appliances such as oil and gas furnaces, gas water heaters, gas ranges and ovens, gas dryers, gas or kerosene space heaters, fireplaces, and wood stoves inspected by a trained HVAC professional at the beginning of every heating season.
- Make sure there is adequate and clean space around your furnace system. Do not store cleaning chemicals near the furnace and make sure nothing is blocking your furnace so that it can take in the oxygen needed to properly burn off the gas.
- Whenever possible select appliances that vent their fumes to the outside and have them properly installed. Be sure to maintain these appliances according to manufacturers’ instructions.
- Check your furnace filter at least once a month. Dirty furnace filters can lead to a cracked heat exchanger, which could allow carbon monoxide to leak directly into your home.
- During a power outage, never use a generator inside your home, garage, carport, basement, or near an outside window, door, or vent. Always place generators away from your home.
Although installing carbon monoxide detectors around your home is a good precautionary measure, do not overlook the importance of proper use and maintenance of fuel-burning appliances. If for any reason you suspect high levels of carbon monoxide in your home, evacuate the premises immediately and call a qualified HVAC technician to come in and test your air quality. Carbon monoxide poisoning is serious, be sure to take all necessary measures to prevent this from becoming a problem in your home.