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How To Keep Your House Warm, But Safe Too!

February 6, 2012

With the end of winter not quite in sight, now is a good time to remember that keeping your house warm must be done safely.

Use fireplaces, wood stoves, or other combustion heaters only if they are properly vented to the outside and do not leak flue gas into indoor air space.

Wrap your home in insulation

The best way to keep the cold out and the warmth in is to ensure your home is properly insulated. Heat rises, so be sure to have decent insulation in your attic.

Did you know that a third of the heat lost in a  non-insulated house is through the walls? Make sure they are well insulated!

Close all your windows properly and keep them air-tight. Make sure that your doors are sealed. That includes around the door frame as well as under the door.

Beware of Carbon Monoxide

Be aware that the more you seal off air circulation to the outside, the more you increase the possibility of a dangerous build-up of carbon monoxide in the air – especially if you use natural gas or propane in the home.

The Silent Killer: know the dangers of  Carbon Monoxide

You cannot see or smell carbon monoxide (CO), but at high levels it can kill a person in minutes. Even at low levels of exposure, carbon monoxide can cause serious health problems. CO is harmful because it will rapidly accumulate in the blood, depleting the ability of blood to carry oxygen. Because the deadly gas has no colour, taste or smell, it is difficult to detect, hence it’s nickname the “silent killer”. How can you protect your family from carbon monoxide? The first step is to make sure that carbon monoxide never enters your home in the first place. The second step is to install at least one CO detector in your home.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

  • Low levels: Headache; fatigue; shortness of breath; impaired motor functions
  • High levels: Nausea; dizziness; chest pain; fatique; poor vision; difficulty thinking; confusion
  • Very high levels: Convulsions; loss of consciousness; coma

Where does Carbon Monoxide come from


Carbon Monoxide is a common byproduct of the combustion (burning) of fossil fuels. Most fuel-burning equipment (natural gas, propane and oil), if properly installed and maintained, produces little CO. The byproducts of combustion are usually safely vented to the outside. However, if anything disrupts the venting process (such as a bird’s nest in the chimney) or results in a shortage of oxygen to the burner, CO production can quickly rise to dangerous levels.

The burning of wood, kerosene, coal and charcoal produces CO. Gasoline engines produce CO. CO production is at a maximum during the start-up of a cold engine. Starting, then idling, your car or gas mower in the garage can be dangerous. The fumes that contain CO can enter a home through connecting walls or doorways and can quickly rise to dangerous levels.

How Can I Eliminate Sources of Carbon Monoxide in My Home?

  • Have a qualified technician inspect and clean fuel-burning appliances yearly, before the cold weather sets in, to ensure they are in good working order.
  • Have a qualified technician inspect chimneys and vents yearly for cracks, blockages (e.g., bird’s nests, twigs, old mortar), corrosion and holes.
  • Check fireplaces for closed or blocked flues.
  • Check with a qualified techician before enclosing heater and hot water equipment in a smaller room, to ensure there is adequate air for proper combustion.
  • If you have a powerful kitchen exhaust fan or downdraft cooktop, have a qualified technician check that its operation does not pull fumes back down the chimney.
  • Never use propane or natural gas stove tops or ovens to heat your home.
  • Never start a vehicle in a closed garage; open the garage doors first. Pull the car our immediately onto the driveway, then close the garage door to prevent exhaust fumes from being drawn into the house.
  • Do not use a remote automobile starter when the car is in the garage; even if the garage doors are open.
  • Never operate propane, natural gas or charcoal barbecue grills indoors or in an attached garage.
  • Avoid the use of a kerosene space heater indoors or in a garage. If its use is unavoidable provide combustion air by opening a window while operating. Refuel outside after the unit has cooled.
  • Never run a lawnmower, snowblower, or any gasoline-powered tool such as a whipper snipper or pressure washer inside the garage or house.
  • The use of fossil fuels for refrigeration, cooking, heat, and light inside tents, trailers, and motorhomes can be very dangerous. Be sure that all equipment is properly vented to the outside and use electric or battery-powered equpiment where possible.
  • Regularly clean the clothes dryer ductwork and outside vent cover for blockages such as lint, snow, or overgrown outdoor plants.
  • Reduce or eliminate the use of fondue heaters indoors.
  • If you live close to a road with heavy traffic, outdoor carbon monoxide levels can affect your indoor air quality, especially during rush hour. Such levels should not set off a CO alarm, but slightly elevated CO levels might be observable on some types of CO detectors with a digital display.

Where to place the Carbon Monoxide Detector

Because CO can have the greatest impact on people as they sleep, detectors should be placed near sleeping areas so they can be heard, in addition to other areas. Plug-in models will limit users where there are outlets, but the area around the detector should not be blocked. Do not connect them to an outlet that is controlled by a switch.

Other models can be placed up to knee height. They should not be in the immediate area of air vents, heating or cooking appliances, chimneys or unheated areas of the home.

What If The Alarm Sounds

Do not ignore the alarm even if you do not feel any symptoms!

If you know what the source is, evacuate the house first and then remove or turn off the source. Ventilate the house and reset the alarm. Call 911 if anyone is feeling flu-like symptoms.

If you don’t know what the source is, evacuate the house. Otherwise, call the gas utility, a heating contractor or the fire department to have the house tested.

A Carbon Monoxide Detector might be your second line of defence, but it is necessary. You should have one in your home today.

Furthermore, you should consider having a carbon monoxide detector monitored 24/7 by your security system provider!

If you don’t have a security system, if your current system is not monitored, or if you are hot happy with your current security provider, call me for a free, no-obligation consultation.

You will be glad you did!

Ulli Robson, Security Specialist, (780) 288-2986


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