Carbon monoxide, abbreviated CO, is an odorless gas that you cannot see. Every year we read or hear about incidents where people are hurt or worse, die from this odorless colorless gas. Below are a few Facts, Myths and Tips that you can read through about this unseen gas to hopefully give you a better understanding of what CO is and how to easily prevent problems as well as protect yourself and family from CO.
FACT: CO is always present where a flame is seen or a fuel is burned, such as in your heater, wood stove, fireplace, gas cooking stove and clothes dryers. Vehicles also burn fuel and produce CO.
FACT: When installed, maintained and used properly heaters stoves and equipment that burn fuels will not pose a significant CO problem.
MYTH: I can smell CO.
FACT: You can’t smell CO. No one can. Nor can animals. It is odorless. Many people who say they are smelling CO might smell the odors of other substances that are sometimes present with a problem that is also causing unwanted CO. However this is not usually the case.
TIP: Install at least one UL listed CO detector outside where you sleep. Having an additional CO detector on each floor level of the house is even better. CO detectors that plug into a socket also work fine. You can’t smell CO…The detectors can!
TIP: If your CO detector activates, check and make sure the battery is good. The sound a detector makes when the battery is low is very different than when it is sounding an alarm. CO detectors have a test button. Try it. Make sure everyone in the house or apartment knows what it sounds like. And READ THE INSTRUCTIONS AT LEAST ONCE! They come with every CO detector for a reason!
FACT: In the 2013-14 heating season the Cheltenham Township Fire Department responded to CO problems over 40 times. Most responses were from minor problems or for problems with the CO detector. However a few of the responses found CO levels that could have been lethal to the occupants.
FACT: By far the leading problem found in Cheltenham Township for excessive CO is broken heater flues and clogged chimneys.
TIP: Have your house heater serviced annually. This should always include a cleaning and inspection of the flue and chimney.
MYTH: If the flue pipe from my heater is rusted or has holes in it, I can just patch it up!
FACT: Holes and corroded flue pipes are indications that there is an even larger problem somewhere in the heating system. The flue should not corrode. Get a competent repair service to correct the underlying problem.
MYTH: in cold weather I can warm up my car in the garage even though the garage is attached to the house. I just make sure the door into the house is tightly closed.
FACT: Many responses by the fire department for CO alarms easily identify the culprit as a car running in the garage. Vehicles give off HUGE quantities of CO. Outside this CO easily disperses. Vehicles are not made to run inside of buildings. No garage is constructed so well that it will keep out all of the CO or other fumes your car generates. And if you have an attached garage without a door leading into the house CO infiltration into your house is still a problem!
TIP: Open the garage door prior to starting your car. Immediately drive it out of the garage and let it warm up outside! Close the garage door so the car exhaust and CO won’t blow back into the garage.
MYTH: During a storm when the power goes out I can run my gas generator in or near the garage with the door open so it doesn’t get wet.
FACT: A gasoline or diesel powered generator also produces a very large amount of CO. They do not have chimneys attached to them! Every gasoline or diesel powered appliance or tool produced will come with instructions that say they must only be used outdoors and must be kept away from any building openings.
The facts and myths above are directly related to actual problems the Fire Department has found during responses to CO problems. While not all possible causes for excessive CO can be predicted those mentioned are not only predictable but preventable. Having CO alarms in your house will give you the early warning for the times that the unpredictable might happen.
More questions? Contact the Fire Marshal’s Office by email or phone.
8230 Old York Road
Elkins Park, PA 19027-1589
215-887-6200 x 235