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.

6 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 ( 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: 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,

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