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Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: Is Your Family at Risk?

Carbon monoxide poses serious health risks. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 50,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms each year because of monoxide poisoning. Some cases of carbon monoxide poisoning, in fact, are fatal. Over 400 people die each year from this odorless and tasteless gas. So, how do you know if your family is at risk?

Fireplaces

When neglected or used improperly, fireplaces can contribute to carbon monoxide buildup. Both gas and wood fireplaces will produce carbon monoxide as a byproduct of combustion. Assuming you open the flue damper, though, it will be exhausted out the chimney. If you build a fire with the flue damper closed or only partially open, carbon monoxide may build up inside of your home.

For a wood-burning fireplace, you should selectively choose dry firewood. Regardless of moisture content, all firewood will produce carbon monoxide when burned. Dry firewood, however, produces less carbon monoxide than wet firewood. This is because it has a more efficient combustion process. Dry firewood burns more completely, resulting in a lower concentration of byproducts like carbon monoxide.

Gas Furnaces

Gas furnaces can also produce carbon monoxide. When they burn gas to heat the air, they’ll produce this odorless and tasteless gas as a byproduct.

With that said, gas furnaces have a sealed design that prevents carbon monoxide from escaping and leaking into your home’s living space. They have a heat exchanger unit that’s connected to a flue pipe. As carbon monoxide is produced within the heat exchanger unit, it will be vented through the flue pipe so that it safely exits your home. As long as the heat exchanger unit and flue pipe remain intact and don’t leak, carbon monoxide shouldn’t enter your home’s living space.

Gas Water Heaters

Like gas furnaces, gas water heaters can produce carbon monoxide. Gas water heaters are powered by the same types of gas as their furnace counterparts. If there’s a breach in the gas supply line, it may cause carbon monoxide to leak into your home’s living space.

Gas water heaters contain many different parts. Over time, some of these parts can rust and degrade. Depending on the specific type of part, it may cause carbon monoxide to leak. If you own a gas water heater, you should consider getting it inspected at least once a year.

Even when these precautions, it’s important to install carbon monoxide detectors in your home. Carbon monoxide detectors will alert you to the presence of carbon monoxide by triggering a loud alarm.