Most homeowners understand there are certain maintenance tasks that must be completed to keep their fireplaces burning safely and efficiently, such as checking masonry for signs of damage or having their chimneys regularly swept. However, many do not know about the dangers they can face from improperly venting carbon monoxide gas.
Although it can be deadly, carbon monoxide poisoning is rarely discussed in the media. This dangerous gas causes thousands to be hospitalized each year, killing as many as 400 people annually. Thankfully, there are a number of steps homeowners can take to protect the safety of themselves and their families against this potentially deadly gas.
What is carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that is produced by combustion reactions. Because it is colorless, odorless, and tasteless, it is often referred to as the “silent killer”; without proper equipment, such as a carbon monoxide detector, it is impossible to identify.
Because carbon monoxide is produced in all combustion reactions, many appliances in your home may produce it. Fireplaces, stoves, furnaces, boilers, outdoor grills, space heaters, and vehicles all produce carbon monoxide gas. However, when regularly maintained and properly vented these appliances pose little to no risk of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning
The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning closely mimic that of the flu. After small amounts of exposure, people will begin to experience headaches, nausea, and drowsiness. As exposure continues, these symptoms will continue to worsen and begin to include impaired coordination and vision as well as shortness of breath or dizziness. In high concentrations or when exposed over a long period of time, carbon monoxide poisoning can cause come or death.
What to do if you experience these symptoms
If you are using a fuel-burning appliance such as a fireplace or space heater and begin to experience any of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, move immediately to a fresh air location such as outdoors or near an open window. Before reentering your home, contact emergency services or the poison control center.
How to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning
There are a number of common sense ways that families can reduce their risk of exposure to carbon monoxide.
- Have fireplaces, chimneys, or other vented appliances regularly inspected to ensure that all vents are clear from damage and blockages.
- Never leave vehicles idling in a garage, even if the garage door is open.
- Place carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home, especially near appliances such as furnaces or water heaters or outside sleeping areas. Carbon monoxide detectors should be tested every six months, replacing batteries as needed.
- Never operate fuel-burning appliances such as grills or generators in an enclosed space or near an open window.
To have the safety of your fireplace, stove, or other heating appliance evaluated, contact Pristine Sweeps. Our certified staff can help give you and your family the peace of mind to enjoy your fireplace without the worry of exposure to carbon monoxide.