Did you know that research done by the Technical Standards and Safety Authority showed that the majority of Ontarians are aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide but they aren’t taking the necessary steps to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in their homes?
In Ontario, over 70 per cent of all carbon monoxide deaths and injuries occur in residential homes.
How safe is your home? Do you have your gas appliances maintained and inspected every year? Do you have carbon monoxide alarms in your home? Are they installed correctly?
Here is some information on carbon monoxide and some tips to keep safe.
What is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide is an odourless, tasteless, and colourless gas that can cause serious health problems if undetected. Carbon monoxide is harmful because it will rapidly accumulate in the blood, depleting the ability of blood to carry oxygen.
What are the symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning?
The symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning can be similar to flu. If you are suffering from Carbon Monoxide poisoning you may suffer from: headaches, nausea, general lethargy, dizziness, or flu-like symptoms that appear to get better when you are away from the area. If you ever have these symptoms you must get everyone out of the house immediately and call 911.
What are sources of Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon Monoxide is a by-product of the burning of fossil fuels including natural gas, oil, propane and wood. In your home a fireplace or the furnace can be sources of Carbon Monoxide but if installed properly and maintained regularly, they will produce very little as a by-product. Carbon Monoxide becomes an issue if your venting becomes blocked or if your heating equipment is damaged. In the case of furnaces, a defective heat exchanger can be a source of Carbon Monoxide. The danger arises if Carbon Monoxide leaks out of a defective heat exchanger and mixes with the air that is generated by the furnace and pushed into your vents throughout your home.
How do I prevent and detect Carbon Monoxide in my home?
The most important action you can take to detect Carbon Monoxide is ensuring you have Carbon Monoxide detectors inside your home. It is recommended to have one on every level of your home – especially near sleeping areas.
There are a few other things you can do around the home to reduce your risk of CO exposure:
- When having a gas or wood fire, open a window about one inch to let fresh air in the room.
- You should never operate a fuel burning appliance in an enclosed space. Check with a qualified technician before enclosing heating equipment in a smaller room to ensure there is adequate supply and ventilation air for proper combustion.
- Never run your car in the garage. This is a source of CO poisoning in homes. If you have a door into the garage from your home, check the seals around the door at least once a year and, ensure the door-closing mechanism is working as it should.
- Ensure all gas fired heating appliances are properly vented and check that there are no blockages around the outdoor vent which could potentially stop air from properly venting.
- Have a qualified technician inspect chimneys and side wall vents yearly for cracks, corrosion or holes, and blockages like bird’s nests, twigs, or old mortar.
- Check fireplaces for closed or blocked flues – it’s important there are no obstructions.
Simply being aware of the risks won’t protect you from carbon monoxide poisoning; you need to take steps to prevent it. And not only is this a safety issue, by properly maintaining your equipment you’re extending the life of it and it will operate more efficiently, which could save you money on your energy bills.
What do I do if my furnace or boiler stops working?
Have a certified gas technician look at your equipment for safety reasons.
How to keep warm while you are waiting for the technician to arrive:
- Draw the curtains to help keep the heat you have in the room from escaping through the window
- Use a hot water bottle or electric blankets when you are sitting or sleeping
- Close doors to rooms that you don’t need to heat
- Electric heaters – follow manufacturer instructions
- Wood fireplace or natural gas fireplace – making sure all safety precautions are followed (see above for tips)
What not to use in the home to keep warm:
- Portable fuel-fired appliances (i.e., portable barbeque, heater, stove) inside your house or garage