Carbon monoxide and gas safety tips

Updated on March 19, 2024

2-minute read

Carbon monoxide and gas safety tips

Updated on March 19, 2024

2-minute read

In Alberta, most people use natural gas to heat their homes, and furnaces produce and safely vent carbon monoxide when doing so. Installing a carbon monoxide detector and alarm in your home is critical to home safety.

Understanding the causes and signs of carbon monoxide risks and how to prevent them will help keep you and your family safe.

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odourless and colourless gas that can cause serious health problems, even death. It is a by-product of burning fossil fuels, like the fuel used to run your car or natural gas to heat your home.

Photo of a carbon monoxide detector
Photo of a carbon monoxide detector
Photo of a carbon monoxide detector

What is carbon monoxide poisoning?

Carbon monoxide is harmful because it can rapidly accumulate in the blood. When it does that, it makes it difficult or impossible for your blood to carry oxygen throughout the body.

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can be like the flu. You may suffer from headaches, nausea, general lethargy, dizziness or flu-like symptoms that appear to get better when you are away from the area. In worst-case scenarios, carbon monoxide can cause unconsciousness and even death.

What are the sources of carbon monoxide?

As mentioned, carbon monoxide is a by-product of burning fossil fuels, including natural gas, oil, propane, and wood. For example, a fireplace or a furnace in your home can be a source of carbon monoxide. But if these are properly installed and maintained regularly, they will produce very little carbon monoxide and that won’t leak into your living spaces or put your family at risk.

Carbon monoxide becomes an issue if your venting is blocked or your heating equipment is cracked or damaged. For example, a defective heat exchanger in a furnace can be a source of carbon monoxide. It is a serious danger if the carbon monoxide leaks out of a faulty heat exchanger, mixes with the air heated by the furnace, and is pushed into your vents throughout your home.

How do I prevent carbon monoxide risks in my home?

Installing carbon monoxide detectors inside your home is the most essential thing you can do to prevent poisoning. You should have a CO detector and alarm near your furnace and utility room and on every level of your home. Consider having one installed near the kitchen and one near the bedrooms.  

Here are some additional carbon monoxide prevention tips to keep your family and home safe:

  • Have a qualified technician inspect and clean fuel-burning appliances every year. The best time to do this is before the cold weather sets in to ensure they are in safe working order for the long heating season.
  • Have a qualified technician inspect chimneys and vents yearly for cracks, blockages (like a bird’s nest), corrosion, or holes.
  • Check fireplaces for closed or blocked flues.
  • Check with a qualified technician before installing a furnace or hot water heater in a smaller, enclosed room. Good airflow is essential for proper combustion.
  • Never use propane or natural gas stove tops or ovens to heat your home.
  • In the winter, make sure your furnace and dryer vents are not blocked by ice or snow.
  • Never use a portable barbeque or stove inside.

If your carbon monoxide detector sounds the alarm, exit the house immediately and call 911.

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