Start Winter Smart to Avoid Carbon Monoxide Poisoning


I’m a firm believer in starting with WHY.

Often the “why” we do something is more important than the “how”.  If we have a strong enough reason why, we’ll figure out how!

Unfortunately, when it comes to proper heating system maintenance, the “why” can be a bit scary.  If a furnace is not venting properly, if the fireplace chimney is blocked, or if one of many other items is not operating properly as the cold weather approaches, the end result could be carbon monoxide poisoning.  And… it could be fatal.  

Sorry to be so negative right up front, but this is vitally important for your family’s safety.   According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “each year more than 400 Americans die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning not linked to fires, more than 20,000 visit the emergency room, and more than 4,000 are hospitalized.”

So…what to do?  Glad you asked!


CO detector installed on ceiling.

A CO detector is a “must have” for most homes.

First step – if you have a gas-fired appliance of any type (furnace, water heater, clothes dryer, fireplace, refrigerator – yeah, that one surprised me too… although not very common, there ARE gas-fired refrigerators!), a wood-burning fireplace, or an attached garage – you simply MUST have a carbon monoxide detector installed.

Carbon monoxide alarms should be installed in a central location outside of each sleeping area in the home, and at least one on each level of the home.  You can read more great info about what to buy and how to install carbon monoxide detectors from Consumer Reports.  


Secondly –  have a professional HVAC company clean and check your furnace.  While there are many steps you can take yourself, on this one, I think it is money very well spent to have an expert review the entire heating system before you fire it up as the weather turns colder.  Here’s a great article with more info on this subject from This Old House.  


Third – if you have a fireplace, and intend to use it this winter, hire a chimney sweep.  Not everyone is comfortable climbing onto their roof.  And even if you are, how many of us have the proper tools to clean out the chimney, without making a huge mess?

Anyone else remember this chimney sweep?

Finally – if you are fortunate enough to have a garage for your car, no matter how tempting it is, do NOT warm up your car by running it in the garage.  It’s dangerous.  Really.  I know it’s so very tempting – but please, don’t do it!

I know safety warnings like this are not the most fun to read.  But what good is a well-maintained, comfortable home, if your family is not safe and healthy to enjoy it?

As always,  thanks for reading!


PS – if you found this article interesting, helpful, or just entertaining, I sure would appreciate it if you shared it with your friends.  The share buttons are right below!

Darren Emery

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