Carbon monoxide (CO) is a dangerous, poisonous gas that is colorless, odorless and tasteless. While you may be aware that smoke inhalation from fires is a common cause of CO poisoning, cigarette smoke and vehicle exhaust are the most common sources of CO exposure. Almost every flammable material produces some degree of CO when consumed. When you burn fuels such as gas, wood, charcoal, kerosene, propane, heating oil, coal and even natural gas, be sure to maintain proper ventilation so the carbon monoxide does not accumulate indoors and create a risk of illness or death.
Your fuel-burning equipment and appliances, such as wood burning stoves or fireplace inserts, fireplaces, space heaters, gas and charcoal grills, furnaces, water heaters, boilers or ranges produce CO gas. When natural gas equipment is installed, operated and properly maintained, CO gas is kept to safe levels.
Easy Ways to Prevent CO Build-Up
To protect yourself and your family from CO build-up, follow these easy tips:
Never use a gas powered lawn mower, grill or vehicle in an enclosed area including your garage, home, business, tent or trailer. An open door or window is insufficient to prevent CO build up within any enclosure.
Always put out a fire in a fireplace. Smoldering wood is as much a CO danger as burning flames.
Get your fuel-burning equipment checked annually by a qualified service technician. DC Gas provides a complimentary annual service check-up each fall, and will provide similar system checks throughout the year for a nominal fee.
Regularly inspect your equipment for visible signs of problems. Some to remember include high indoor humidity and soot collecting near a burner or vent.
Inspect the flame color of your appliances. Natural gas should burn with a clear blue flame. Yellow or orange flames could indicate a problem that should be checked by a DC Gas technician.
Make sure that all required vented appliances are properly vented to the outdoors.
Schedule central heating unit inspections before the fall heating season begins to make sure there are no cracks or rust in the heat exchanger and that the burner area is clean of soot and dirt.
How do I know if CO is present?
There are some physical signs of CO in a building. These include one or more of the following: unusually high indoor humidity, stuffy or stale indoor air, water or soot collecting near vents or burners and/or heavy condensation on walls or windows.
You should also know the physical symptoms of exposure which vary depending on how much CO is in the bloodstream. Higher levels mean higher danger. Also, the severity of physical symptoms varies from person to person depending on age, general health, level of physical activity and the duration and concentration of exposure.