4 tips to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning

Many carbon monoxide detectors are portable, allowing you to move it with you from room to room throughout the house, says Ferrari. (Photo courtesy of Flue Season)

Many carbon monoxide detectors are portable, allowing you to move it with you from room to room throughout the house, says Ferrari. (Photo courtesy of Flue Season)

Picture this: the house is closed up, the fireplace is on, the burners on the stove are cooking, the guests are arriving and you’re lying in bed with a headache and nausea. Is this the result of holiday stress, or is it something more?

Carbon monoxide poisoning in the initial stages looks a lot like the flu, and symptoms can include headache, nausea and achy joints. However, you can protect yourself and your family from this harmful gas.

Below are four tips to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

1. Make a point to have your chimney checked. 

A restricted or plugged stove, fireplace or furnace flue may push carbon monoxide back into the home. Remember - CO has no odor and you won't know if a gas appliance is spilling. If you smell wood smoke, you are breathing carbon monoxide, but at least you have a warning. 

2. Have the dryer exhaust checked. 

The extra workload of towels, sheets, kids clothes and tablecloths mean the dryer will work a bit of overtime. Lint catches fire just like creosote and a plugged gas dryer may push CO into the home. 

3. Cook with a window cracked and the kitchen exhaust fan on. 

The move ventilation you have around the stove, the better. Have the exhaust termination checked to make sure it's free of debris or snow.

4. Get a carbon monoxide alarm. 

The cheap ones will tell you you've already been poisoned, because they don't begin to alarm until the amount of exposure is pretty high. Infants, small children and people with respiratory illness may be significantly affected, resulting in hospitalization, brain damage or death.

The best ones cost $179 to $249, last 7 years and let you know when very low levels are present. Also, many of these are portable, so you can move it with you from the kitchen, to your bedside or even to the hotel with underground parking, (which can be a source of CO in the rooms). 

Who can you call once you realize there is a problem?

Call a professional chimney sweep. They should have certifications such as CSIA, NFI, or F.I.R.E. Many are experts in CO sources and detection.

Make "holiday headaches" a thing of the past with a little preparation. 

About this Angie’s List Expert: Bob Ferrari is the owner of Flue Season Chimney Sweeps, providing chimney sweep in Redding, Calif. Since 1977, Flue season has specialized in chimney cleaning, waterproofing, crown and flashing repair and air duct cleaning and repair. They are a recipient of the 2012 Angie’s List Super Service Award.

As of December 4, 2013, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.


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A carbon monoxide detector can alert homeowners to odorless but potentially deadly gas leaks. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member James T. of Arden, N.C.)
A carbon monoxide detector can alert homeowners to odorless but potentially deadly gas leaks. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member James T. of Arden, N.C.)

Deaths in N.C. caused by carbon monoxide gas poisoning prompt changes. Experts suggest all homes, especially those with gas appliances, should have a working CO detector.

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