How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide (CO) Poisoning

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When using a fuel-burning appliance, whether it is a top rated wood-burning fireplace, premium gas stove, or even a gas cooking stove, it is important to understand that carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is a risk. Over 500 people die from CO poisoning each year and thousands of others require emergency medical attention after developing the symptoms. It is known as “the silent killer” because you cannot detect it with your senses. You can prevent your family from being exposed to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide through understanding the risk and taking precautions.

Why is Carbon Monoxide so Dangerous?

Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that is produced when fuels that contain carbon (such as coal, gasoline, wood, charcoal, kerosene and natural gas) do not burn completely. Breathing in carbon monoxide fumes damages your body by decreasing the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream. Overtime, the shortage of oxygen can cause cells to die and vital organs—such as your heart and brain—to shut down. Pregnant women, unborn babies, infants, children and the elderly are all especially vulnerable to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Since it is odorless, colorless, and tasteless, the only way to detect dangerous levels of carbon monoxide is by having a carbon monoxide detector or by developing the symptoms. If you are intoxicated or sleeping when exposed, you are liable to die without experiencing the symptoms. The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are dizziness, headache, disorientation, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath and loss of consciousness.

If you believe that you have been exposed to carbon monoxide, you should immediately go outside or to a place with plenty of ventilation and call emergency services.

What are Common Causes of Carbon Monoxide Exposure?

Your family is most at risk of carbon monoxide exposure when fuel-burning appliances are improperly used or fall into disrepair. This list is not exhaustive but these are some common causes of carbon monoxide exposure:

  • Barbecuing on a charcoal-burning grill indoors without proper venting
  • Using a fireplace in a home that is too tight, which can create a reverse air flow that draws combustion gases into your living space
  • Leaving a gas cooking stove on too long
  • Burning fuel in a fireplace with an obstructed chimney (when a chimney is clogged by lays of creosote or blocked by debris it allows combustion gases to accumulate in your home)
  • Allowing a car to idle too long or running a generator or lawnmower in a closed garage

Signs of Carbon Monoxide Exposure

While you cannot see, smell or taste carbon monoxide, these are some indicators that your family may be at risk:

  • Soot or creosote buildup
  • Loose masonry on the chimney
  • A decreasing supply of hot water
  • Missing or loose furnace panels
  • Rust or water streaking in your chimney or vent
  • Disconnected or loose connections in your vent or chimney

How Do I Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

Have your chimney & fireplace cleaned to ensure that there are no blockages which could cause dangerous C02 emissions to back up in your living space.

The best way to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning is to follow these guidelines:

  • Invest in a carbon monoxide detector for each floor of your home. Be sure that your carbon monoxide detectors meet Underwriters Laboratories (UL) safety standards and that you place them where local regulations dictate in your home (usually this will be near bedrooms).
  • Only use space heaters in well-ventilated areas.
  • Store your generator outdoors, never use it inside.
  • Open the damper of your fireplace before every use.
  • Bring in a professional chimney sweep for an annual inspection and cleaning of your chimney to ensure no clogging, blockage or damage puts your family at risk.

Our main concern is to ensure you safely enjoy your appliance. If you have any questions or need further information, please contact your local We Love Fire dealer.

For more information, contact your local We Love Fire dealer.

17 Responses

  1. Our wood burner is not burning stove still close to hot. We have an electrical heater plugged in a sealed oil type and our carbon monoxide alarm just went off! We opened windows but again nothing is burning...first time it has ever gone off. Any idea why? We feel fine. Wood burner had been going all day with windows open bc it's too hot. Windows all got closed at around 10PM. Wood burner still burning on low. At 2AM wood done burning and it goes off. Nothing else happening in the living room where the alarm, heater and wood burner is... any idea what cause it to go off? Thanks!!
    • We Love Fireplaces and Grills
      Hi Amanda Thanks for reaching out and for reading our blog. I would like to congratulate you for having the Carbon Monoxyde Detector installed and in use. We wish every home had one. The description of your problem would lead us to have a site visit. Your problem could be related to your chimney needing a good cleaning or maybe repair. It could also be that your home is very airtight, and we would need to supply fresh air to your fireplace. It could also be the environment around your house, like wind and nearby trees that would obstruct the air flow of your chimney. Many different factors to look into. We strongly recommend to use our ‘store finder’ feature and locate the closest one to your home. Have them come and look at your setup and they will advise you as what is best to do (https://welovefireplacesandgrills.com/dealer-locator/). This is important, your safety and the one of your family depends on this. I hope this will help you find the solution to your issue. All the best!
  2. I have a wood burning fireplace that I am not using. It was in my house when I purchased it. I have an electric heater that I would like to place inside of the fireplace instead. Should have any concerns about carbon monoxide poisoning?
    • We Love Fireplaces and Grills
      Good day Mildred Thanks for your comment and for reading our blog. Electric fireplaces represent absolutely no risk with Carbon Monoxide Poisoning. You are safe that way. Simply make sure the electric fireplace is securely installed inside the fireplace and the electrical connection is made up to code. Then, you will be 100% sure your home is safe. If you need a local expert to inspect your installation, feel free to look at our network of experts using the following link: https://welovefireplacesandgrills.com/dealer-locator/. Stay warm!
  3. We heat primarily with our Dutch West wood-burning stove. We have lived in this house for year & not that it’s relevant but it’s a big log home. We have had no issues. I did plug in an electric heater in the bathroom this morning and the car monoxide detector went off. I guess it’s a no-brainer - unplug it, don’t use it and open the windows! Are there any other concerns for my situation? thank you so much
    • We Love Fireplaces and Grills
      Good morning Chris Thanks for your comment. If you are certain about the timing of using the electric heater and triggering the CO detector, it could simply be that the electric heater had some dust to burn off or paint to cure. If the heater had a smell while heating up, it could be it. If that is the case, that should only happen once or twice. It might be worth trying it again and monitor it. If no smell was related to using the electric heater, maybe you will need to investigate further or stop using that heater. Hope this helps,
  4. We had a regular wood burning fireplace. We do not have a door on it. When can we close the damper after we have had a fire in the fireplace? I don’t want to close it too soon but when we have a fire in the fireplace in the evening I don’t want to go to bed and leave the damper open on cold winter nights because the cold air comes down into the house.
    • We Love Fireplaces and Grills
      Good morning Debra Thanks for your comment. To answer your question, we recommend to wait until the fire is out completely before closing the damper. It means the coals are at room temperature and no trace of smoke is produced anymore. If you close the damper too soon, the smoke will go in the house and it would not be good at all. Hope this helps. Stay warm!
  5. Good morning. I have a vented natural gas fireplace. I know that the flue must stay open before starting the fire until you turn the gas off. My question is how long should I wait to close the flue once I turn the gas off to allow all of the harmful gases to release? I was told 30 minutes but that seems like an excessive amount of time and I do not want to look heat.
    • Type sorry, l don't want to lose heat.
      • We Love Fireplaces and Grills
        Dear Amy Thanks for reaching out. We totally understand the concern about loosing heat. The 30-minute reference is the safe side. After you shut off the gas, it should not take long for 'fumes' to cool down. It depends on your fireplace setting, how hot it got, etc. If you monitor the temperature of your fireplace and it gets closer to room temperature before the 30-minute mark, you may close the damper and it would be safe. Do you have a CO Detector in that room where the fireplace is? If you close your damper earlier than 30 minutes and the CO detector does not trigger, it would be the best way to make sure you are safe in this process. Hope this helps!
  6. What is a normal CO level from the chimney of a pellet stove. Thanks
    • We Love Fireplaces and Grills
      We do not have this information. You may have to contact the pellet stove manufacturer directly. They may have it from their test reports, but it may not be pertinent to your installation and fuel.
  7. Hi we have just moved into a new house which has a combustion heater. We have a baby and toddler, can you please tell me any precautions with this and how to care for it. Thanks
    • We Love Fireplaces and Grills
      Hi Kelly Thanks for visiting with us. The heater you are referencing, is it a wood heater? If yes, you may want to look at our Wood Fireplace blog articles. If it is a Gas Fireplace, you may want to review our Gas Fireplace blog articles (https://welovefireplacesandgrills.com/category/fireplaces/). In all cases, you may want to also visit with our local experts. You can find one here: https://welovefireplacesandgrills.com/dealer-locator/. They can inspect your installation and tell you how to use it safely. All the best!
  8. Hello, We recently had a Scandia 300 Warmbrite Wood Heater installed that we are loving!~But since than, I have heard about Co2 emission dangers in the home. Thanks for your article, its really helpful! I am going to purchase the Co2 reader today. Maybe a silly question, but I was wondering how safe this type of fire place is to burn? We have a glass door on ours which we always keep on but we burn it all afternoon, as soon as we get home until we go to bed. Also, my husband thinks its safe to put another log on the fire before (which means it is burning strongly as we leave the room - and sleep at the other end of the house) bed but im not so sure and feel uncomfortable doing this. I have read it is unsafe.. Are we better to let it finish burning or even put it out before bed or is it safe, as my husband says because it has a glass door? The reason we keep it on is we have two dogs that sleep in the lounge room as we wanted them to stay warm! Im also concerned now this is ant the safest place for them to sleep if there is Co2 emissions from the fireplace.. Thanks in advance, really appreciate the advice! Michelle
    • We Love Fireplaces and Grills
      Hello Michelle I am assuming you might be from Australia? The Scandia heater you are referring to is certified. It has a sealed glass door, which means it is safe to use when the door is closed. However, I do have a question for you: Has the heater been professionally installed with an approved chimney? If this information is unknown, I would recommend you have your installation inspected by a professional. You might be able to find one via the Scandia website or via the Australia Home Heating Association. <a href="http://www.homeheat.com.au/" rel="nofollow">http://www.homeheat.com.au/</a> All the best!

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