With cold temperatures affecting much of North America this winter, it's worthwhile to address a potential hazard that could arise with increased use of fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces and water heaters: carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas produced by the combustion of fuels such as natural gas, oil and propane in devices including furnaces, water heaters and stoves. These items are normally designed to vent the CO to the outside, but harmful interior levels of CO can result from an incomplete combustion of fuel, improper installation, or blockages, leaks or cracks in the venting systems. Very high levels of CO can lead in incapacitation or death, with victims sometimes never having been aware they were being poisoned.
Homeowners can take action against potential carbon monoxide poisoning by taking the following steps:
-Never use gas stoves or ovens to heat the home, even temporarily.
-Have all fuel-burning appliances professionally inspected annually, preferably before the start if the cold weather season when heaters and furnaces are first used.
*These appliances include gas stoves and ovens, furnaces and heaters, water heaters and gas clothes dryers.
*All such devices should be properly installed and vented to the outside.
*If repairs are necessary, be sure they are performed by a qualified technician.
*Always use the proper fuel specified for the device.