Carbon Monoxide in the Fireplace

WIlburrr Mascot - Alaskan AC

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You can’t see it, smell it, or taste it – but it can kill you. We’re talking about dangerous carbon monoxide. And, it doesn’t necessarily have to come from a broken furnace. Carbon monoxide (CO) can come from a damaged chimney or fireplace.

More folks in the Phoenix and Tucson areas are using the fireplace with the onset of cooler air. And, while fireplaces seem to be a home system that require very little maintenance, it can have unexpected problems and emit dangerous carbon monoxide. In fact, more than than 20,000 Americans are treated in emergency rooms and 400 die each year from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning linked to malfunctioning fireplaces, according to statistics from the Center for Disease Control.

The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. CO symptoms are often described as “flu-like,” but people who are sleeping or incapacitated can die from CO poisoning before they have symptoms. The elderly, people with chronic heart disease, anemia, or breathing problems are especially at risk.

The easiest ways to catch a carbon monoxide leak early is:

  • Have several CO detectors installed throughout your home. Install a battery-operated CO detector (or one with a battery backup) in your home. Place the detector where it’s alarm will wake you up, such as outside your bedroom. Don’t put the alarm in the garage, furnace room, near a fireplace or in the kitchen. Also, don’t put it near a window or door – where fresh air could cause a misleadingly low reading – or behind the drapes or furniture that could block the air flow. Replace the battery every year and the CO detector every five years.
  • Have your chimney and/or fireplace inspected at least every other year to ensure the flue hasn’t broken down or it hasn’t gotten clogged with soot or creosote whereby it would emit dangerous CO.
  • Have your heating system inspected every year. Some of us don’t have furnaces in our homes, but if you do, make sure you have your fall preventive maintenance.
  • Do not use portable chemical heaters, including camp heaters,…EVER!
  • Do not leave your automobile or other gas appliances running in a closed garage.

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