With winter upon us, what could be cozier than basking in the warmth of fireplaces, furnaces and outdoor heaters? Yet, it is vital to ensure that your home heating appliances and systems are operating at their best. Failure to do so could expose you and your loved ones to the ‘Silent Killer’—Carbon Monoxide (CO)—often without awareness.
While CO presents serious hazards, you can protect yourself and your family from harm by following these guidelines throughout the cold winter months.
CO is an invisible, odourless, and tasteless poisonous gas that can pose a deadly risk if not managed properly. Common household fuel-burning appliances like furnaces, fireplaces, gas stoves, propane heaters, kerosene lanterns, can be sources of CO. Approximately 65% of all CO injuries and deaths in Ontario occur in people’s homes. Remember, it’s not just your furnace or fireplace; many Ontario homes can have between 4-6 fuel-burning appliances that produce CO.
Schedule regular inspections for your home's fuel-burning appliances and equipment through the services of a TSSA-registered fuels contractor, which can be conveniently located using TSSA’s lookup tool.
Install certified CO alarms, test them regularly and replace them as needed and in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions. These alarms serve as an early warning system that provides time to take life-saving measures.
Familiarize yourself with the symptoms of CO poisoning, which can mimic the flu – but without the fever. If symptoms like nausea, headache, burning eyes, confusion, or drowsiness appear, evacuate everyone, including pets, to fresh air and call 911.
Do not use indoors any fuel-burning appliances that are designed for outdoor use only, such as propane or kerosene-fueled heaters, bbqs, etc., as this can lead to lethal CO exposure, fires, and other health hazards.
Whether you prefer a hands-on approach or opt for professional assistance in maintaining your home heating system, here are some quick tips for you:
- Regularly inspect the heating system for signs of deterioration, such as water stains, corrosion, or leakage.
- Routinely clean furnace air filters in forced-air systems. Maintain a clear zone around the furnace area to prevent materials from catching fire or exploding due to excessive heat.
- Ensure that warm-air outlets and cold-air outlets are unobstructed. In case snow or ice covers your outdoor gas meter or external appliance vent pipe, remove it carefully with a car brush or broom.
- Don’t scrape the meter or vent pipe with a sharp instrument, as this may cause unintended damage.
- If the heating system malfunctions, check the electrical fuse, switch, and thermostat before contacting a TSSA-registered fuels contractor.
- Never allow uncertified gas technicians and unregistered contractors to tamper with or conduct work on heating systems.
For additional safety information and resources, visit cosafety.ca. Here's to a secure and warm winter season.