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The Chimney and Carbon Monoxide Dangers

A chimney’s job is to exhaust combustion gases from your home. However, when a chimney gets excessively dirty or clogged (by any number of things—debris and animal nests are common culprits), when your chimney damper is closed, or a part of your chimney is broken that prevents carbon monoxide and other combustion byproducts from venting, then you and your family may become at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. When carbon monoxide can’t access the outside of your home through your chimney it will “backdraft” into your home.

Carbon monoxide can put you and your family in harm's way. Be sure to have your chimneys inspected and swept to avoid such accidents.

Carbon monoxide can put you and your family in harm’s way. Be sure to have your chimneys inspected and swept to avoid such accidents.

In high levels, carbon monoxide can become deadly within a matter of minutes, while low-level does can sicken people with flu-like symptoms. (Unlike the flu, carbon monoxide poisoning won’t cause a fever or glandular swelling.) Carbon monoxide poisoning is even sometimes mistaken as seasonal depression. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, [link to ] over 200 Americans die each year and 10,000 injuries are diagnosed—all from carbon monoxide poisoning related to venting problems with their heating systems.

The best way to prevent chimney-related carbon monoxide poisoning is to have your chimney inspected and swept annually. This is a recommendation shared by the Chimney Safety Institute of America, as well as most all other national fire safety organizations. A professional chimney cleaning can have many other benefits as well, including providing you with a safer, more efficient heating appliance that’s less likely to smoke in your home and create unpleasant odors. Beyond prevention, installing a carbon monoxide detector inside your home will be able to alert you to the presence of the deadly gas inside your home. Those of us at Basic Chimney Sweep & Repair are happy to inspect and clean your chimney so you can rest easy knowing you and your family are safe.

How Can I Tell If My Chimney Is Allowing Carbon Monoxide in My House?

Only a professional will be able to truly determine—via an inspection and/or cleaning —whether or not your chimney is allowing CO to vent into your home. Although many causes of chimney-related carbon monoxide poisoning are tucked away from view, there are sometimes visible signs that something may be amiss with your chimney, including:

  • Rust or water streaks on your vent or chimney
  • Loose chimney masonry
  • A loose or missing furnace panel
  • Loose or disconnected vent or chimney connections
  • Debris or soot inside your home or falling from your chimney, fireplace, or appliance
  • Moisture inside your windows
  • Internal appliance damage or malfunctioning components
  • Improper burner adjustment
  • Hidden blockage or damage in chimney

If you’ve noticed any of these issues with your heating appliance, call us right away to schedule an inspection.

Physical Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

The trickiest part about this sometimes-deadly gas is that it can be very hard to detect, as it is odorless, colorless, and tasteless. This is why the call it “the silent killer.” Unfortunately, when our bodies are given the choice between carbon monoxide and oxygen, our blood protein hemoglobin will choose carbon monoxide over oxygen, replacing oxygen in our blood stream with carbon monoxide. Too much carbon monoxide in the blood will kill us.

Below are some of the physical symptoms that accompany low-level carbon monoxide poisoning. These are especially important to pay attention to during the colder months when you’re using your heating appliance:

  • Red coloration of the skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness, light-headedness, or loss of consciousness
  • Fatigue or weakness, including muscle fatigue
  • Chest pain

It is important to note that CO poisoning symptoms manifest differently for each person.

Other Causes of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Did you know that your clothes dryer can also cause carbon monoxide to leak into the home? The best way to prevent this problem is to have your dryer vent professionally inspected and cleaned. This is a service we at Basic Chimney Sweep & Repair are happy to provide to our customers. A dryer vent cleaning will also help your clothes to dry quicker, which will cost you less energy dollars and may even prevent a dryer fire, as lint tends to get clogged in dryer ducts, especially when your dryer is located in the center of your home and the duct has to travel a long distance to vent outdoors.

Contact us today to schedule an inspection of your chimney and/or your dryer duct. Keep your family safe and put your mind at ease, all while helping your appliances run more efficiently.

Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Your Home

Did you know that hundreds of Americans are killed each year by carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning? This colorless and odorless gas can cause you to get sick at lower levels, and can lead to death at higher levels. It can potentially come from many places: your gas powered furnace, exhaust from your car, kerosene heaters, and wood and gas burning fireplaces. The key for people when dealing with this potentially fatal problem is finding out where the problem is coming from to begin with. The only tried and true way to avoid a dangerous situation is to have your appliances that emit CO regularly inspected. CO monitors are also recommended, as they can alert you to the presence of carbon monoxide.

In a nutshell, carbon monoxide is produced anytime a fuel, such as wood, gas, oil, or charcoal, is burned. If the appliance burns at an efficient temperature, the heat will destroy most of the gas. This is why, in the case of wood-burning appliances, you will want to avoid wet or “green” woods that still contain much of their moisture. That moisture keeps the flame from getting hot enough to burn through the CO gas. Consistent chimney inspections can alert you to potential problems in your chimney that could be bringing about a dangerous scenario. There are many potential structural problems that the untrained eye simply cannot see.

Some of the visible signs that you may have a potentially dangerous carbon monoxide situation include:

  • Sooting
  • Loose or missing furnace pane
  • Rusting or water streaking on vent/chimney
  • Loose or disconnected vent/chimney connections
  • Moisture inside of windows
  • Loose masonry on the chimney itself

Here are symptoms of potential CO poisoning:

  • headache
  • fatigue
  • shortness of breath
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • vomiting
  • disorientation
  • loss of consciousness

If you feel you or someone in your home is experiencing these symptoms, call emergency services immediately. This is not something to be cavalier with. Your fireplace and chimney are wonderful appliances that bring years of enjoyment and warmth. However, you must be aware of the potential problems that they can bring about. This will help you make wiser choices.

By Ronald Caillais on July 17th, 2012 | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment
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