Carbon Monoxide and Fireplace Safety

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At Old World Stoneworks, we know there’s nothing better than enjoying your home fireplace. Since our customers’ safety is always first in our minds, this week we want to share information on how to prevent a hazard sometimes caused by a poorly maintained chimney: carbon monoxide poisoning.

What is carbon monoxide poisoning?

Carbon monoxide is hard to detect because it’s colorless and odorless.

This gas is a byproduct of burning, or combustion. The less efficiently fuel is burned, the more carbon monoxide it produces. Wood stoves and fireplaces, as well as furnaces and water heaters, generate this gas. If these appliances aren’t properly vented, carbon monoxide can leak into the home.

carbon monoxide fireplace safety

The human body responds to carbon monoxide as though it’s oxygen, breathing it in and letting it spread throughout. A little bit of carbon monoxide causes flu-like symptoms. A lot can cause brain damage or even death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 400 Americans die annually from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. Another 20,000 wind up in emergency rooms. Children are particularly susceptible.

Symptoms

How do you know you have carbon monoxide poisoning? At first, you might think you have the flu, although it doesn’t cause fever. Initial symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness, weakness or fainting
  • Breathing difficulties

More serious cases could cause confusion, vomiting, blurred vision or unconsciousness. If your symptoms flair up while you’re at home but decrease when you’re away, you might suspect carbon monoxide poisoning.

What if you think you might be experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning? You should leave the afflicted building immediately. Contact a doctor or go to the nearest hospital in case you need oxygen therapy.

Prevention

It’s sad that so many people are affected by this largely preventable type of poisoning. Fortunately, you can do a few easy things to keep yourself, your family and pets safe. First, install a carbon monoxide alarm on each level of your house, especially near bedrooms. If you travel a lot, buy a travel carbon monoxide alarm to take on the road with you.

Next, stay up on maintenance. Most carbon monoxide issues happen because fumes aren’t venting properly. The key to safety is vigilance, and calling in professional help. Notice if rust, corrosion, blockage or soot becomes visible on your chimneys, vents and appliances. Hire a professional to inspect your central heating system annually.

You can keep your fireplace safe by leaving the damper and flues open until your fire is completely extinguished. Have your chimney professionally cleaned every year, especially if you use your fireplace more than a couple of times a week. If you’re burning unseasoned wood in your fireplace, you’re likely to have more creosote build-up. In this case, you might need to have your fireplace cleaned twice a year.

We feel better already knowing that you’ll take these precautions and safely enjoy your home fireplace. If you’d like to make the experience even more beautiful, call us today to talk about adding one of our cast-stone mantels to complete the décor of any room.

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