How to Protect Yourself From Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide is a “silent killer” because you cannot see it or smell it. There are symptoms — such as headaches, shortness of breath, and hallucinations — that can warn you. But it’s still one of the leading causes of accidental poisoning deaths in Canada. A carbon monoxide leak can be particularly dangerous if it happens when everyone is sleeping.
Carbon monoxide is produced naturally by some of our most commonplace appliances, such as gas stoves or fireplaces and furnaces. While it’s almost impossible to have no carbon monoxide producing appliances in your home, there are several steps you can take to help protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Check your fuel-burning appliances annually.
- Check all the ventilation in your house is working correctly.
- Install a carbon monoxide detector.
- Never use outdoor appliances indoors.
Check Your Fuel-Burning Appliances Regularly
You should have an annual inspection completed on all fuel-burning appliances. That includes fuels such as wood, oil, or natural gas:
- Gas stoves
- Gas fireplaces
- Wood stoves
- Water heaters
- Any other fuel-powered appliances
Your inspector should be checking for the following:
- Poor connection to a gas line
- Issues with connection tubes
- Blocked vents
Any issues your inspector finds should be immediately fixed. A potential carbon monoxide leak is not something you can delay fixing.
Check Your Ventilation is Working Properly
One of the best ways to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning is to make sure there are no ventilation issues in your house. If there are blockages in your ventilation system, carbon monoxide cannot exit your home and will build up.
Here are some steps you can take to help ensure the ventilation systems in your house are working correctly:
- Check there are no blockages in your chimney, stove, fireplace, and floor vents.
- Check there are no lint blockages in your dryer’s vents.
- Check all your exterior vents after a heavy snowfall.
Install a Carbon Monoxide Detector
Carbon monoxide detectors are required by law in Ontario. Like a smoke alarm gives you a warning when it detects smoke, a carbon monoxide detector gives warns you when it detects carbon monoxide.
They are easy to find in any hardware store and can often just be plugged into the wall — no installation required! We recommend you have at least once detector in the hallway of the floor you sleep on, as well as one near your cooking area or an appliance like a gas fireplace.
Make sure you test your carbon monoxide alarms regularly. Many of them will warn you by beeping if the battery is getting low, but it’s better to change it ahead of time instead of waiting for it to run out. A common trick to remember is to do this at the beginning and then at the end of daylight savings time.
Never Use Outdoor Appliances Indoors
We try to make the most of Ottawa’s seasons, but that doesn’t mean you can do everything all-year-round. It’s crucial to use “outdoor appliances” such as gas BBQs outside and in a well-ventilated area. Even a garage is not well-ventilated enough to ensure that the carbon monoxide generated by a BBQ can escape properly.
Another appliance to make sure you only ever run outdoors is a portable gas-powered generator. Storms can often knock out power. With more of us in Ottawa working at home or doing online schooling these days, the last thing you want to be without power for days. So a generator can be convenient, but it must stay outside, or you can risk carbon monoxide poisoning from it.
Other appliances to avoid using indoors or even in a garage include kerosene heaters, lanterns, charcoal BBQs, as well as wood-burning appliances. These all need to be outside; otherwise, the carbon monoxide they generate can build up and poison you.
Now You Now How To Protect Yourself
Carbon monoxide poisoning can seem very scary, but it doesn’t have to. Taking the right precautions — such as getting you fuel-burning appliances and vents inspected regularly — can significantly reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide detectors ensure you’ll know right away if you do have any issues.