Saturday, December 18, 2010

You Can't See It or Smell It, but it's Deadly

As the winter season comes into full tilt, homeowners start running their heating systems more frequently and longer to keep their homes warm.  Along with the warmth, comes a potential hidden danger.  Carbon monoxide.  Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and toxic gas. Because it is impossible to see, taste or smell the toxic fumes, CO can kill you before you are aware it is in your home.  December and January are typically the coldest months of the year, and are also usually the peak months for carbon monoxide poisoning.  Carbon monoxide gas kills 450 Americans every year and poisons more than 20,000.  Symptoms of CO poisoning mimic the flu, with headache, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, and shortness of breath.  If you think you are experiencing symptoms, get to fresh air immediately!

What causes CO to build up?  Carbon monoxide is a gas produced by common fuel-burning sources such as furnaces, water heaters, fireplaces, stoves, alternative power sources and cars. That's why it's so important to get your fuel-burning appliances checked each year. Never use your oven to heat your home. Never leave your car running in an attached garage.  All of these sources of CO need to be well vented. Heating sources should be checked each year to ensure they are in proper working order.  All homes should have a CO alarm as well. 

Tips to avoid CO Poisoning:

  • Have a professional check heating systems, chimneys, flues and vents once a year.
  • If buying a new home, have your home inspector check all heat sources for leaks.
  • Use carbon monoxide detectors.
  • When using other heat sources, follow manufacturers instructions.
  • If you are feeling symptoms of CO poisoning, get fresh air immediately, and call 911 if needed.

For more information on carbon monoxide, visit the EPA website, and the Carbon Monoxide Headquarters.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Chimney safety for the holiday season

With the cold weather and holiday season here, a favorite pastime for homeowners is to make a nice roaring fire in the fireplace. Although that roaring fire may be a treat to sit in front of and watch, safety and mantenance of the chimney must be taken.

The Chimney Safety Institute of America reports that creosote accumulation is the leading cause of chimney fires. A chimney that is dirty, blocked or is in disrepair can inhibit proper venting of smoke up the flue and can also cause a chimney fire. Nearly all residential fires originating in the chimney are preventable. An annual chimney inspection by a certified chimney sweep can prevent fire or carbon monoxide poisoning. The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends the following chimney safety tips:
  • Have your chimney checked every year.
  • Burn only well seasoned hardwoods.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector.
  • Install a chimney cap.
  • Have your chimney waterproofed.
  • Have your chimney flashing inspected and maintained.
  • Have a sealing damper installed in your wood-burning system.
  • Have your chimney sweep ensure that your chimney has a appropriate liner.
  • Following a violet storm, earthquake, flood or lightening strike, have your chimney inspected for damage - inside and out.
  • Hire a certified chimney sweep.
With annual maintenance and common safety precautions, you and your family can spend many hours this winter enjoying the beauty and warmth from your fireplace.