Here in the middle of winter, it’s worthwhile to address a potential hazard caused by fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, water heaters and stoves: carbon monoxide (CO). These items are designed to vent CO to the outside, but harmful interior levels of CO can result from incomplete combustion, improper installation, or blockages, leaks or cracks in the venting systems. Very high levels of CO can lead to incapacitation or death, with victims sometimes never having been aware they were being poisoned.
Homeowners can take action against potential carbon monoxide poisoning by taking the following steps:
- Never use a gas stove or oven to heat the home, even temporarily.
- Have all fuel-burning appliances professionally inspected annually.
- These appliances include gas stoves and ovens, furnaces and heaters, fireplaces, water heaters and gas clothes dryers.
- All such devices should be properly installed and vented to the outside.
- If repairs are necessary, have them performed by a qualified technician.
- Do not start a vehicle in a closed garage, or idle the engine in the garage even when the garage door is open.
- Never use gasoline-powered generators or charcoal grills indoors.
- Install a CO detector (either battery operated, hard wired or plug-in) and learn what to do if the alarm activates.
- If anyone in the home experiences fatigue, dizziness, blurred vision, nausea, or confusion, everyone should leave immediately and seek medical attention. If no symptoms are felt, open doors and windows immediately and shut off all fuel-burning devices that may be potential sources of CO.
- Installation of working CO detectors in residential properties is now required by law in most Canadian provinces.
Stay safe and enjoy the comfort of home this winter and all year long.