CARBON MONOXIDE SAFETY
Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week - November 6th to 10th, 2023
Too many Saskatchewan citizens die, or become seriously ill due to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. While CO poisoning can have devastating effects, it is preventable. It is important to have a licensed contractor inspect all fuel-burning appliances once a year. You should also have carbon monoxide alarms in case the gas is present.
What is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is odorless, colourless, tasteless, poisonous and preventable.
CO is produced when common fuels, such as natural gas, propane, kerosene, fuel oil, wood, coal and charcoal, do not burn completely. Excessive amounts of CO will form when there is not proper ventilation or an adequate air supply.
Exposure to CO leads to unconsciousness, convulsions, brain damage and, ultimately, death.
The Uniform Building and Accessibility Standards Regulations (the UBAS Regulations) were amended recently to require carbon monoxide alarms and smoke alarms (or combination carbon monoxide-smoke alarms) be installed in all residential buildings in Saskatchewan, regardless of the date the building was constructed.
Common Carbon Monoxide Sources in Your Home
- Corroded, disconnected, or plugged chimneys on fuel-burning appliances
- Barbecuing indoors
- Lack of service to gas appliances
- An idling vehicle in an attached garage
- Attached garage passageway door to your home is left ajar
- Heated garages or shops with unvented or improperly vented equipment
- Defective furnace heat exchanger
- Depressurization (i.e., a change in your home's air pressure when inside air is exhausted faster than outside fresh air can come in)
Signs there is Carbon Monoxide in Your Home
- Stuffy air
- Sudden formation of excessive moisture on windows and walls
- Soot build-up around appliances and vents
- A yellow flame in a natural gas appliance instead of blue
- Fumes that may smell like vehicle exhaust (CO is odourless but may be accompanied by other exhaust-like fumes)
- Everyone in the home becomes ill with flu like symptoms at the same time
Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
- Burning eyes
- Loss of muscle control
How to Help Keep Your Home Safe from Carbon Monoxide
Do not put your family's safety at risk — a carbon monoxide detector in your home alerts you to danger before physical symptoms of CO poisoning appear. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for the placement, maintenance, and replacement of your detector.
Carbon monoxide detectors are just part of the solution. Practice the following tips to help keep your family safe:
- Ensure gas equipment, chimneys, and gas appliances (including gas ranges) are properly installed, maintained and inspected annually by a licensed gas contractor.
- Periodically clean the dust and lint off your CO detectors.
- Check your furnace filter and change it regularly.
- Never leave your vehicle idling in the garage, even if the door is open. Start lawnmowers and snowblowers outside.
- Open a window to replace the air before you light a wood-burning fireplace or woodstove. Keep it open until the fire is completely extinguished.
- Keep the area around gas equipment clear; it needs air for the flame to burn properly. If the equipment is blocked, the airflow will be stifled, which may cause CO.
- Ensure the furnace and water heater vent pipes to the chimney are in good condition and securely fastened.
- Keep furnace panels and grills in place, and ensure the fan compartment door is secure.
- Keep flue vents and chimneys clear of debris and other blockages, including frost and snow.
- Do not operate an unvented appliance (i.e., barbecue or portable propane heater) in an enclosed space, such as a garage, ice shack, tent, shop, shed, automobile, RV or trailer, or near any combustible materials.
- Never operate a generator in a house, garage, or enclosed building.
- Ensure your licensed gas contractor installs an adequately sized combustion air supply duct in your furnace room or near your gas appliances. This is especially important for homes being upgraded for increased energy efficiency.
- Follow the manufacturer's instructions for proper operation and care of heating equipment and appliances.
- Never tamper with, or attempt to adjust heating devices or safety controls on heating equipment and appliances.
- Consult a qualified gas contractor when upgrading your home. Increasing your home's energy efficiency or adding exhaust fans may affect the operation of your gas appliance and potentially lead to CO.
What to Do If Your Carbon Monoxide Alarm Goes Off
Take the following steps to determine the reason for the alarm:
If someone is experiencing symptoms of CO poisoning
- Everyone should leave the house immediately and seek medical treatment if required. Call 911 (or your local fire department if you live in an area without 911 coverage) as soon as you are in a safe location outside of your home.
- Do not re-enter your home until the CO level has been checked and it is deemed safe to do so.
- Do not re-occupy your home until the sources of the CO has been found and eliminated.
If no one is experiencing symptoms
- Shut off any gas appliances and open the doors and windows to ventilate your home.
- If your alarm stops while your home ventilates, you may have low levels of CO in your home. Call a qualified gas contractor to check your gas appliances as soon as possible.
- If the alarm continues to sound with your home ventilated, your detector may be at the end of its life cycle or the batteries may need to be replaced.
- Other possible causes of CO in your home can include:
- Vehicle exhaust entering your home
- Burning of candles or oil lamps
- Cigarette smoke
- Prolonged humidity, if installed near a bathroom or an open window when it is humid outside
- Chemicals and cleaning products
- Lint, dust, or hair built up on sensors