Did you know that hundreds of Americans are killed each year by carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning? This colorless and odorless gas can cause you to get sick at lower levels, and can lead to death at higher levels. It can potentially come from many places: your gas powered furnace, exhaust from your car, kerosene heaters, and wood and gas burning fireplaces. The key for people when dealing with this potentially fatal problem is finding out where the problem is coming from to begin with. The only tried and true way to avoid a dangerous situation is to have your appliances that emit CO regularly inspected. CO monitors are also recommended, as they can alert you to the presence of carbon monoxide.
In a nutshell, carbon monoxide is produced anytime a fuel, such as wood, gas, oil, or charcoal, is burned. If the appliance burns at an efficient temperature, the heat will destroy most of the gas. This is why, in the case of wood-burning appliances, you will want to avoid wet or “green” woods that still contain much of their moisture. That moisture keeps the flame from getting hot enough to burn through the CO gas. Consistent chimney inspections can alert you to potential problems in your chimney that could be bringing about a dangerous scenario. There are many potential structural problems that the untrained eye simply cannot see.
Some of the visible signs that you may have a potentially dangerous carbon monoxide situation include:
- Loose or missing furnace pane
- Rusting or water streaking on vent/chimney
- Loose or disconnected vent/chimney connections
- Moisture inside of windows
- Loose masonry on the chimney itself
Here are symptoms of potential CO poisoning:
- shortness of breath
- loss of consciousness
If you feel you or someone in your home is experiencing these symptoms, call emergency services immediately. This is not something to be cavalier with. Your fireplace and chimney are wonderful appliances that bring years of enjoyment and warmth. However, you must be aware of the potential problems that they can bring about. This will help you make wiser choices.
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