NEW YORK (This Old House) - Every year in the United States, more than 200 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by fuel-burning appliances. Thousands more are treated in emergency rooms for it.
Still others die from when the deadly gas is created from burning charcoal in a home, garage, vehicle, or tent.
Many of these deaths and illnesses could be avoided if homeowners took some basic precautions.
Don't rely on your own powers of observation: Carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless, and some of the conditions that can cause it to build up in your home are invisible, such as a blocked or damaged chimney interior.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has the following advice to keep your family safe:
Make sure all fuel-burning appliances are installed according to manufacturer's instructions and local building codes -- and by someone qualified to do the installation.
Never service fuel-burning appliances without proper knowledge, skills, and tools. Always refer to the owner's manual when performing minor adjustments or servicing fuel-burning appliances.
Have the heating system, including chimneys and vents, inspected and serviced annually. The inspector should also check chimneys and flues for blockages, corrosion, partial and complete disconnections, and loose connections.
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Install carbon monoxide detectors that meet the requirements of the current UL standard 2034 or the requirements of the IAS 6-96 standard. Install one in the hallway near every separate sleeping area of the home, and make sure it cannot be covered up by furniture or draperies.
Never burn charcoal inside a home, garage, vehicle, or tent.
Never use portable fuel-burning camping equipment inside a home, garage, vehicle, or tent.
Never leave a car running in an attached garage, even with the garage door open.
Never use gas appliances such as ranges, ovens, or clothes dryers for heating your home.
Never operate unvented fuel-burning appliances in any room with closed doors or windows, or in any room where people are sleeping.
Do not use gasoline-powered tools and engines indoors. If use is unavoidable, ensure that adequate ventilation is available and whenever possible position the engine unit to exhaust outdoors.
Remember, your first line of defense is to keep carbon monoxide from building up in your home in the first place, which means appliances that are properly vented and in good working condition. Your critical safety net is the carbon monoxide detector/alarm, which can save your life by warning you of the invisible presence of the gas.