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Your Furnace Can Kill You!

September 30, 2015

Every year, many deaths are attributed to home heating hazards which cause fires, carbon monoxide poisoning, and other calamities. Here are some very important steps you can take to reduce or eliminate some heating safety hazards:

Steps You Can Take

First, check the area around your furnace. Is there adequate clearance all around the system?  Or are you using the area for storage, thus limiting the system’s air intake?

Next, notice any leaks or moisture sources near the furnace, or signs of rust in the furnace.  Something as simple as condensation dripping from a cold water pipe onto the furnace can cause rust.  Rust on the inside or outside, or along any of the vents is a carbon monoxide hazard.  Other potential carbon monoxide hazards include animal or bird nests obstructing the flue, soot build-up, improper venting, and damage or deterioration to any vents.

Carbon Monoxide Dangers

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are an average of 430 deaths per year in the United States from unintentional, non-fire-related carbon monoxide  poisoning.  The older the furnace, the more likely there could be a problem. Carbon monoxide is a sneaky problem for many reasons.

  • First, carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless… it’s not like natural gas which has the smell of rotten eggs!  Thus, it is difficult to know that you’ve developed a carbon monoxide leak. That’s why it’s nicknamed “the silent killer.”
  • Second, your heat may be operating (keeping the house warm) so you do not know that your heat exchanger or vent is beginning to rust out and building up the deadly gas..
  • Lastly, low-level carbon monoxide poisoning mimics the symptoms of common winter ailments – such as the flu, or an over-indulgent night out, or even seasonal depression – so many cases are not detected until permanent damage to the body has occurred.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include: headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, and eventually, loss of consciousness.

Tips for Prevention

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, recommends these tips:

  1. Have all fuel-burning home heating systems inspected and serviced annually by trained service technicians.
  2. Install CO detectors with battery backup in hallways near each sleeping area and in the garage.  Test the CO alarms and replace the batteries every year.

Test your knowledge.

Following these important tips can keep illness or death from claiming your life or the lives of your loved ones.