Build-up of this gas can be deadly
Typical fuel-burning equipment needs to draw air from the room in which it sits in order to maintain combustion, i.e. a flame. It is also designed to safely exhaust combustion fumes outdoors.
However, if the equipment is not working properly these fumes, including carbon monoxide, may spill indoors where they can build up to dangerous levels. In today’s more airtight homes, gas levels may build up more quickly.
Recognize carbon monoxide poisoning!
Carbon monoxide robs the air of oxygen. Symptoms of low-level carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to those of the flu: headaches, feeling tired and feeling sick to your stomach. At higher levels, carbon monoxide can cause you to pass out and, lacking oxygen, you could die. See Health Canada’s Carbon Monoxide fact sheet.
Install certified carbon monoxide detectors
Carbon monoxide (CO) detectors are part of basic home safety today—and now required by law in some jurisdictions such as Ontario and Yukon Territory. Choose models that are certified by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) or the Underwriters Laboratories of Canada (ULC). For maximum protection, install CO detectors in sleeping areas, outside primary sleeping areas, and in each level of your home. If the CO alarm sounds, leave your home right away and call local authorities (9-1-1).
Know the risks
Inform yourself about proper installation and operation of any fuel-fired appliance or equipment. Even then it is good practice to ask an expert: your local fuel supplier or heating contractor.
- Be aware of depressurization.
Depressurization occurs when air exhausted to the outdoors lowers the indoor air pressure to the point where air is drawn back in from outside. Usually the easiest way is down the chimney, bringing hazardous combustion fumes, such as carbon monoxide, into the home. Exhaust devices that can contribute to this situation include central vacuum systems, bathroom fans, dryers, kitchen range fans or exhaust fans used during renovation. You can have a technician test your home.
- Ensure a clear air supply.
Oil and gas furnaces may require an unobstructed supply of outside air.
- Buy a sealed system.
Consider buying a system that has sealed combustion which completely disconnects the combustion process from the building interior.
- Buy a system that uses less air.
If you can’t buy a sealed heating system, look for a model that needs less air for combustion and dilution than standard models. You find this characteristic in high-efficiency heating systems and integrated heat pumps.
- Crack a window.
Wood-burning fireplaces produce carbon monoxide. If you have a wood fireplace, open a window slightly when you use it for fresh air.
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