Protecting your home from the silent killer

Know the signs of CO poisoning, have appliances serviced and install and maintain detectors

  • Oct. 22, 2016 10:00 a.m.
BC Safety Authority reminds homeowners that if you’re operating gas appliances in your home

BC Safety Authority reminds homeowners that if you’re operating gas appliances in your home

Whether your home is new to you or a well-loved haven for your family, knowing the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning is key for all homeowners.

And now that fall is here, the B.C. Safety Authority reminds residents to protect themselves against the risks of carbon monoxide exposure by checking that all gas appliances are functioning properly and making sure CO detectors are working.

“It’s important to remember that if you are operating gas appliances, you could have a CO issue,” says BCSA’s Gas Safety Manager, Brad Wyatt. “As the weather cools, people tend to seal up their homes to avoid drafts and reduce heating expenses. But an air-tight home could create hazards when adequate combustion air is not available. That’s why it’s essential to make sure all appliances are serviced and working properly before firing them up.”

Carbon monoxide is produced by burning carbon fuels such as propane, natural gas, oil, wood, charcoal, alcohol, kerosene or gasoline. Exposure to CO interferes with the body’s ability to absorb oxygen, which can result in serious illness or death.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure could initially include flu-like symptoms such as light headedness, headaches, nausea, fatigue, chest pains, vomiting, convulsions, confusion and dizziness. Children who are affected by lower levels of CO are at particular risk.

If you suspect you or your family has been exposed to CO seek medical care immediately.

Other signs you may have a CO issue are condensation on windows, dying plants, or having an entire family sick at the same time.

From 2007 to 2014, a total of 76 CO-related incidents were reported to, and investigated by, BCSA. These incidents resulted in nine fatalities and 149 non-fatal injuries. Most of these incidents occurred from October to April and many involved malfunctioning or improperly venting residential furnaces or water heaters.

BCSA recommends:

• All gas-fired appliances, including boilers, furnaces, hot water tanks, stoves, dryers and fireplaces, should be inspected and serviced by a licensed gas contractor at least yearly.

• Ensure all combustion air supply and fresh air intakes into your home remain unobstructed and any screens are free of dust and debris.

• Equip your home  with Canadian-certified CO detectors, ideally on each floor of the home, near bedrooms/sleeping areas. Test detectors annually and replace every seven years.

• Never disable CO detectors due to alarms.

• Gas work must be done by licensed contractors with a current Class A or Class B Gas Fitter or Gas Appliance Service Certificate of Qualification from BC Safety Authority.

• When using a wood-burning fireplace, crack open a window or alternate to allow fresh air flow into the home.

Visit safetyauthority.ca/carbon-monoxide.