Heating Safety - Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon Monoxide poisoning is a serious safety concern associated with your gas or oil burning furnace, kerosene heater or wood-burning stove. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas produced by the incomplete combustion of fuels. This danger is associated with household appliances fueled by gas, oil, kerosene, or even wood. If not properly maintained, these appliances can produce dangerous, or even fatal, levels of CO in the home.

Each year, about 5,000 people are treated for CO poisoning in US emergency rooms, and there are hundreds of fatalities. This number is likely less than the total of people actually affected. Many individuals who suffer from CO poisoning are misdiagnosed and never receive treatment because of CO poisoning's flu-like symptoms.

CO Poisoning Symptoms

At moderate levels, a person can get severe headaches, become dizzy, confused, nauseated, or faint. These levels can be fatal if they persist for a long time. Low levels can cause shortness of breath, mild nausea, headaches, and may have longer term effects on your health. Since many of these symptoms are similar to those of the flu or other illnesses, you may not consider that the cause could be CO poisoning.

Below are three things you can do to protect your family from this silent killer:

1. Make sure your appliances are correctly installed. - Proper installation is vital to the safe operation of combustion appliances. New appliances are equipped with installation instructions that should be carefully followed, along with local building code requirements. Follow manufacturer's instructions to guarantee proper venting. Always use a qualified service technician to install combustion appliances. If in doubt, call a technician to make sure your system is correctly installed.

2. Properly maintain your systems - Have your home's central and room heating appliances, including water heaters and gas dryers checked annually by a qualified service technician. This annual inspection should include your furnace, thermostat controls, automatic safety devices and all other electrical and mechanical equipment.

Here are a few other tips:

* Check chimneys and flues for loose connections, blockages, and corrosion. * Subscribe to an annual inspection/tune-up service agreement so you don't forget to have your system maintained on a regular basis.

3. Install one or more UL Certified Carbon Monoxide Detectors in your home. CO detectors measure both high concentrations of CO over short periods of time and low concentrations of CO over long periods of time. Since the effects of CO can be cumulative, both methods of protection are important. Beware of low-priced detectors that change color instead of sounding an alarm. These detectors require frequent checking and won't alert you to a sudden buildup of CO in the air. Expect to spend between $35 and $80 for a UL rated CO detector.

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For more heating tips and information, visit Wolfe Plumbing - serving the heating needs of Orange County, NY, including Newburgh and Middletown.