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Carbon Monoxide Dangers

Your home is your safe place, where you and your family gather to spend time together and enjoy each other’s company. Because of this, you want to keep your home as safe and free from harm as possible. There are many dangers present inside a home, and a little due diligence, care and maintenance can help protect you and your family from harm.

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Carbon Monoxide: A Silent Killer

Carbon monoxide is a big concern for many homeowners, because they know it is something to fear but don’t necessarily understand what it is. Simply put, carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas that is extremely poisonous. Carbon monoxide is most commonly produced from fuels that have not been burned completely such as wood, oil, natural gas and charcoal. Appliances that use these types of fuel can leave behind carbon monoxide and should be handled with extreme care.

Carbon Monoxide And Wood-Burning Heaters

Fireplaces and wood-burning stoves are of particular concern to many homeowners because they can emit carbon monoxide. This is of even greater concern during the winter months when wood-burning appliances are more frequently used to heat homes across the US. Luckily for homeowners, there are many things you can do to prevent dangerous carbon monoxide from entering your home.

Safe Wood-Burning Practices

With some simple safe practices, you can alleviate the risk of carbon monoxide. First and foremost, use your fireplace or wood stove according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and only use wood-burning heating appliances you are completely confident you know how to operate. Unsafe handling of any wood stove or fireplace is a surefire way to use it incorrectly and unsafely.

Additionally, always store your wood outdoors where it is protected from the elements because seasoned wood that is properly dried will burn hotter than other types of wood. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends a moisture content of less than twenty percent. You want to burn fires that are as hot as possible, and dry wood, as well as dry kindling is the first step to that. Never burn wood that is rotted, moldy or wet. Other safe burning practices include:

Making sure your fires are lit in a well-ventilated area.

Never burning painted, pressure-treated wood or particleboard because these will emit chemicals.

Never burn household garbage in your heating appliance.

Regularly remove ashes from the firebox.

Burn fires as hot as possible. Remember, a smoldering fire may not be a safe fire.

You also want to keep your fireplace/stove and chimney as clean as possible to allow fires to burn extremely hot. A professional chimney sweeping company like Chief Chimney Services, Inc in Suffolk County is committed to keeping your chimney clean, professionally swept and free of any harmful residue. We want your fireplace to work efficiently, but more important than that, we are passionate about keeping you and your family safe from harmful build-up and the potential threat of carbon monoxide poisoning. Take every preventative measure possible when it comes to keeping your home safe, and start with a clean, efficient fireplace or stove that your family can enjoy for years to come.

Carbon Monoxide and Your Fireplace

Summer has officially ended, which means the next frigid New York winter is one season closer. As everyone starts putting away t-shirts and short and pulling out parkas and mittens, homeowners have another task on their minds. Winter is also fireplace season, so everyone is flocking to have their chimneys swept and inspected. Those who neglect to service their fireplaces and chimneys this year are putting the health of their families and homes at risk. While there are a variety of different risks associated with a fireplace in disrepair, none is more insidious than carbon monoxide.

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What Is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is small gaseous molecule that results from all types of combustion. This means that carbon monoxide is present in car exhaust, stoves, lanterns, wood- and charcoal-burning units, and gas ranges. If the fuel burns in an enclosed space, the carbon monoxide product quickly builds up in the air. As the concentration of carbon monoxide in the air increases, so does the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. To make matters worse, you cannot tell if deadly gas is present by smell or taste or sight. Only a specialized carbon monoxide detector can determine its presence.

Poisoning by carbon monoxide can occur within minutes depending on the size of the space and the rate at which it fills up. The carbon monoxide enters the blood stream after inhalation and attaches to the red blood cells before the oxygen has a chance. Thus, carbon monoxide is distributed throughout the body in place of the absolutely vital oxygen, eventually resulting in severe tissue damage and death. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, dizziness, nausea, and confusion. If the victim is not moved to clean air, unconsciousness quickly ensues. The early symptoms mimic much less dangerous illnesses, so many people do not think about moving to an open area.

What Does This Have To Do With My Fireplace?

Carbon monoxide is a product of any type of burning, so if your fireplace burns wood, charcoal, pellets or gas, it produces carbon monoxide. A properly installed fireplace and chimney should safely vent the carbon monoxide out of the home, but a number of issues can arise to hamper that ability.

Any type of chimney obstruction contributes to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. If the path of gases up the flue is blocked, the gases will back up into the home. Different types of obstructions include animals, nests, or a dirty chimney. You can have a mason install a chimney cap to prevent animals from living and building nests inside the flue. To prevent creosote and other fire products from building up and closing off the flue, you should have your chimney swept and inspected at least once per year.

While obstruction is the most common cause for carbon monoxide in the home, you should schedule an inspection with a professional chimney sweep company to determine if your fireplace poses any other types of risks. If you live in the Suffolk County area of Long Island, New York, contact Chief Chimney Services, Inc. for a professional consultation.

By John Pilger on September 30th, 2014 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment

The Science of Combustion

This graphic explains some of the basic science at work inside your chimney. This is helpful in understanding some of the problems that can develop.

Understanding what is happening inside your chimney can alert you to potential problems.

Understanding what is happening inside your chimney can alert you to potential problems.

By John Pilger on January 28th, 2014 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment

Some Dangers Are Silent

Each year in America, hundreds of people die accidentally from non-fire related carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning associated with faulty, improperly used or incorrectly vented fuel-burning appliances.  You cannot see, taste, or smell the gas—hence the reason it is often referred to as “the silent killer”—but, at high enough levels, it can kill a person in minutes.  It is created anytime a fuel is burned.  If appliances that burn fuel are maintained and used properly, the amount of CO produced is usually not hazardous.  However, if appliances are not working properly or are used incorrectly, dangerous levels of CO can result.  Educating yourself on the symptoms of CO poisoning and a few simple steps you can take to minimize your risk of exposure is crucial to keeping you and your loved ones happy and healthy…and alive!

Carbon monoxide detectors save lives. Check their batteries when you check your fire alarm.

Carbon monoxide detectors save lives. Check the batteries when you check your fire alarm. Keep your family healthy and safe.

Knowing the symptoms of CO poisoning can be a lifesaver.  At moderate CO levels, you and your family can get severe headaches, become dizzy or disoriented, mentally confused, nauseated, or faint.  You can even die if these levels persist for an extended period of time.  Low levels of CO can cause shortness of breath, mild nausea, and mild headaches, and may have longer-term effects on your overall health.  Since many of these symptoms are similar to those of more common ailments—the flu, food poisoning, etc.—many may not think that CO poisoning could be the cause.  If these symptoms only occur in the house and/or disappear or decrease when you leave home only to reappear when you return, CO poisoning may well be the culprit.  Getting fresh air as soon as any of these symptoms are noticed is key.

CO poisoning can often be linked directly to faulty heating appliances in your home.  As a precautionary measure, having your heating equipment (fireplace and chimney) cleaned and inspected by a professional annually is a must.  Creosote deposits and/or debris inside your chimney can lead to unsafe conditions within your home when you have a fire going in the fireplace.  Another key precautionary measure is installing at least one battery-powered CO alarm or AC-powered unit with a battery backup on each level of your home and near sleeping areas, and plan to check the batteries regularly to ensure your home is still being monitored; upgrading each of these units every 5-7 years will help to ensure that you’re benefiting from the latest technology upgrades as well.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Becoming more aware of the dangers associated with CO poisoning is extremely important for everyone, as prevention is the key to avoiding it altogether.  Make sure to have your fuel-burning appliances inspected by a trained professional at the beginning of every heating season.  Also make certain that the flues and chimneys are connected, in good working condition, and not blocked.  Remember, CO cannot be seen, tasted, or smelled; your only defense against this silent killer is prevention.

By John Pilger on October 22nd, 2013 | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment