Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is often referred to as the “silent killer” because it is a toxic gas that is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. It is very difficult for people to detect so it is important to have a carbon monoxide detector.

Causes of Carbon Monoxide

CO is produced by the incomplete burning of fuels such as natural gas, propane, heating oil, kerosene, coal, charcoal or wood. Improperly installed or poorly maintained appliances that run on these fuels may create unsafe levels of CO. In enclosed spaces such as your home, cottage or recreational vehicle, even a small amount of CO is dangerous.

Venting problems can create a carbon monoxide emergency. Your vented gas heating appliances are designed to economically heat the inside of your home and safely send the products of combustion outside through the vent. These products of combustion may include dangerous carbon monoxide (CO). If your vent is not installed properly, is blocked or damaged, deadly levels of carbon monoxide could enter your home.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Know the symptoms of CO poisoning. People with CO poisoning sometimes think they have the flu. They do not realize CO poisoning is making them sick because they can’t see it or smell it.

Symptoms Include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Sleepiness
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Conditions that can create a CO hazard include:

  • Venting systems and chimneys that have not been serviced and maintained regularly.
  • A chimney blocked by a bird or other debris.
  • Improper venting of a furnace and cracked furnace heat exchangers
  • Combustion gases spilling into a home if too much air is being consumed by a fireplace or exhausted by kitchen/bathroom fans in a tightly-sealed home.

Signs you have a problem:

  • You notice a sharp, penetrating odour or smell of gas when your furnace or other fuel-burning appliance turns on.
  • The air feels stale or stuffy.
  • The pilot light of your gas furnace or other fuel-burning appliance goes out.
  • Chalky, white powder forms on the chimney/exhaust vent pipe or soot builds up around the exhaust vent.
  • Excessive moisture forms on windows and walls.
  • The alarm of a carbon monoxide detector sounds.

Ensure your venting system is checked before each heating season. If you think there is CO entering your home, leave the home immediately and call a qualified heating contractor. The Carbon Monoxide Awareness Committee recommends annual inspection and maintenance of all fuel burning appliances, venting systems and chimneys by a qualified service technician.