Carbon Monoxide Poisoning and the Home Heating System

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning and the Home Heating System

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning can be an increased health risk during the cold winter months when people are more likely to use space heaters, water heaters, gas furnaces, wood and gas fireplaces and stoves to keep warm in their homes. Exposure to carbon monoxide, which is odorless, colorless and tasteless, can cause carbon monoxide poisoning that presents with flu-like symptoms. These symptoms may include fatigue, headaches, dizziness, confusion or disorientation, and vomiting. Extended exposure to carbon monoxide can be fatal, so reduce your risks for carbon monoxide poisoning by getting your home heating system inspected and maintained regularly.

According to data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers, exposure to carbon monoxide resulted in 47 U.S. carbon monoxide poisoning deaths in 2008. Because this data was collected from those deaths reported directly to the poison control centers, the true fatality rates from carbon monoxide poisoning nationwide may be significantly higher. In order to reduce your risk for carbon monoxide poisoning, it is important to get the flue pipe of your home heating system inspected for restrictions or leaks, as a leaking flue pipe can be the source of a carbon monoxide leak in your home.

A basic heating system tune-up service can ensure your gas heating is working safely and efficiently. A heating maintenance system technician will fully inspect the flue pipe of your home heating system and make any adjustments or repairs necessary to prevent leaks that can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Additionally, technicians will check all controls of the heating system to assess proper and safe operation, from the start of the heating cycle to the end, to ensure it is shutting off properly. A complete inspection of all gas connections, gas pressure, burner combustion and the heat exchanger will further ensure against carbon monoxide poisoning and potential fire hazards.

When getting a new home heating system installed, be sure to hire a fully-licensed and experienced heating system installation expert to avoid the potential hazard of carbon monoxide poisoning from a poorly installed unit. In addition to scheduling regular maintenance inspections of your home heating system, fireplace, chimney, flues and wood stoves before each cold season, it is recommended that you follow these tips to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning in and around your home:

  • Don’t use charcoal or kerosene in the fireplace, and never use a charcoal or gas grill inside a house, enclosed porch, garage or tent. Don’t use a gas stove or oven to heat the house.
  • When using your fireplace to burn wood or gas logs, be sure the flue is open and the chimney isn’t blocked, and don’t use these at all unless you have a carbon monoxide detector installed in your home.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector with a good battery back-up system in your home. Larger homes will require more than one detector to guard against carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Don’t run a generator inside your house, basement, garage or porch. It is safest to keep a generator outside, far from the house.
  • Never leave a car running inside a garage, even if the garage door is open, and never sleep in a parked car while the engine is running.

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