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Carbon Monoxide Safety

While natural gas has a scent added to it to help detect leaks BEFORE it gets used, any fossil fuel could produce an odorless, tasteless, colorless gas called Carbon Monoxide (CO) whenever it doesn’t burn properly. You can protect yourself by knowing the facts:

  • CO can occur with a malfunctioning appliance or blocked chimney.
  • All fuel burning equipment should be installed and regularly serviced by an experienced professional.
  • All fuel burning equipment requires proper venting and air flow for safe operation. Do not install equipment in a confined space. When renovating, have a professional specify space required for fuel burning equipment.
  • A CO detector should be installed on each floor of a home and particularly near every sleeping area.
  • Signs that you may have a CO problem include: water vapor condensing on windows (other than bathrooms and kitchens), headaches, dizziness, flu-like signs, and nausea.
  • If you are alerted by your CO detector, or if you suspect CO poisoning, move to fresh air and call for emergency service.

Protect yourself. Installing a CO detector in your home is an easy way to stay safe.

Prevent Dangerous Carbon Monoxide Build Up

Use a Qualified Professional
Fuel-burning equipment that is operated inside a building should be specified and installed by a qualified technician according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Oversized equipment can be inefficient, costly to operate, and possibly dangerous.

Vent the Area Properly
Fuel-burning equipment requires proper venting and air flow to ensure the correct mix of fuel and oxygen for complete combustion. This is particularly important in today’s tightly-constructed homes.

Do Not Enclose Equipment
Combustion problems can occur when fuel burning equipment is installed in a confined space. A professional should calculate the space required for safe operation based on the BTUs per hour of all equipment installed in the room. The use of attic or house fans, as well as wood-burning fireplaces, should also be taken into consideration.

Frequently Asked Questions

faq-iconWhat is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas produced when a fossil fuel does not have an adequate oxygen supply to burn completely.
faq-iconWhat are the symptoms of  CO poisoning?
Low concentrations of CO can produce symptoms similar to the flu, but without the fever, including:
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • DizzinessExtreme concentrations of CO can cause unconsciousness or even death. Fresh air and prompt emergency medical attention are essential for anyone suffering from CO poisoning.
faq-iconWhat are the warning signs that a piece of fuel-burning equipment may be malfunctioning and producing CO?
  • Condensation on walls and windows
  • Rusting or water streaking on vent/chimney
  • Debris/soot from chimney, fireplace or appliances
  • Unfamiliar or burning odors from appliances
  • Plants dying
  • Some of the indicators of incomplete combustion are a yellow flame (blue is normal) or combustion odors and soot around the front of the furnace or water heater.
faq-iconHow do I prevent Carbon Monoxide?
  • Use a qualified technician for installation: Fuel burning equipment that is operated inside a building should be specified and installed by a qualified technician according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Oversized equipment can be inefficient and costly to operate, as well as dangerous.
  • Ventilate the area properly: Fuel burning equipment requires proper venting and airflow to ensure the correct mix of fuel and oxygen for complete combustion. This is particularly important in today’s tightly constructed homes.
  • Do not enclose equipment: Combustion problems can occur when fuel burning equipment is installed in a confined space. A professional should calculate the space required for safe operation based on the BTUs per hour of all equipment installed in the room. The use of attic or standard fans, as well as wood burning fireplaces, should also be taken into consideration.
  • Reminder: Be aware that changes to the configuration of a room can restrict airflow to fuel burning equipment. Confined space around equipment can result in dangerous levels of CO. An expert can recommend solutions such as transfer grills for improved airflow, louvered doors, introduction of outside air, or the installation of high efficiency furnaces and water heaters.
faq-iconWhat maintenance is needed on my fuel-burning equipment?
Have the heating system (including chimneys and vents) professionally inspected and serviced annually. An inspector should also check chimneys and flues for blockages, corrosion, partial and complete disconnections, and loose connections.
faq-iconShould I use a CO detector?
Definitely. While CO detectors are not a substitute for the proper installation, maintenance and operation of fuel burning equipment, they can provide an important warning before potentially life-threatening levels of CO are reached. Install a CO detector on each level of a building.
faq-iconWhat do I do if my CO detector alarm signals?
  • Never ignore it!
  • Call for emergency service.
  • Move to fresh air outdoors or by an open window.
  • Sensor life is limited. Test and replace detectors according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
faq-iconWhat are some do’s and don’ts?
  • Don’t use equipment for anything other than its intended purpose.
  • Don’t use portable fuel burning camping equipment or grills inside a building or garage.
  • Don’t leave a car running in an attached garage, even with the door open.
  • Don’t operate unvented fuel burning appliances in any room with closed doors or windows or in any room where people are sleeping.
  • Don’t use gasoline-powered tools and engines indoors.
  • Do keep all interior and exterior appliance vents free of blockage or debris.
  • Do change or clean furnace filters regularly.
  • Do refer to the owner’s manual when performing minor adjustments or servicing fuel burning equipment.
  • Do operate equipment according to the maker’s instructions.