This is a problem with which I've had direct experience.
Fall the fan belt on our roughly 30-year-old furnace broke. I
was able to replace the belt without trouble, and things seemed back
in order. A short while later the motor ceased. Again I
replaced the part, saving money by doing the repair myself. I
did not have a furnace company review the condition of the furnace
after my repairs. In mid-December, my family watched a movie in the
basement with a fire in the fireplace and a window slightly open for
ventilation. The kids went to bed after the movie and my wife
and I stayed up a little longer watching TV. We both had mild
headaches, were very tired and after a while my wife went upstairs
to bed. I continued to watch television, dozed a little and
woke up feeling worse. I went upstairs to check on my my
family and woke my wife to see how she felt. She also felt
worse and we both were feeling a little nauseous. At this
point I had a feeling what was going on. I called my parents
in the next town and told them I was bringing my family to get them
out of the house. While my wife collected the kids I turned
off the furnace and borrowed the carbon monoxide (CO) detector from
the fire department a block away to check the levels in the house.
My suspicions were confirmed with levels in the house in places over
150 ppm -- a potentially life-threatening level!. (See
health effects of CO.) I was able to get my family out and
ventilate the house overnight with the furnace off to return the
inside atmosphere to normal. Thank goodness for the mild
December we had that week, allowing us to have the furnace replaced
without further incident. Without the fan running (twice), the
heat exchanger had cracked, allowing combustion exhaust to travel
into the living areas of the house rather than up the flue.
- Know and don't ignore the symptoms. The next step for
us was sleeping more deeply and possibly not waking up again.
- Call a certified repair technician to review or perform
repairs on gas-fired equipment.
- Call for help (911) if you suspect CO poisoning, and get
treatment and help!
- I had moved the CO detector to the garage while working
using a propane heater but had forgotten to replace it in the
house when finished. Having more than one detector would
definitely have kept things from getting as far as they did for
us. Follow manufacturer directions for quantity and
placement of detectors.
David Kovach, Kaneville Fire Department Safety
Steps to prevent
carbon monoxide poisoning include the following:
|Purchase and install a
carbon monoxide detector on each level of your home and near
sleeping areas. Detectors that have been verified by
Underwriters Laboratory (UL) and have been manufactured after
October 1995 conform to minimum alarm requirements. Those marked
UL 2034 or IAS 6–96 have met the U.S. Consumer Product Safety
Commission guidelines. Follow the directions for installing and
using the detector carefully. Be prepared so that you know what
to do if the detector alarm sounds—tell everyone in the house or
building to get out, and call the fire department or your local
utility company from a nearby phone. (Even if you are using a
carbon monoxide detector, have your heating system inspected
|Don't ignore possible symptoms of carbon monoxide
poisoning, such as headaches, nausea, and dizziness, especially
if more than one person in your home or workplace has these
|Have your heating appliances, chimneys, and vents inspected
each year. All appliances should be working and vented properly
to allow gas to escape from enclosed areas.
|Look at appliances, chimneys, and vents for visible soot,
rust, stains, blockage, or corrosion.
|Don't use kerosene or propane heaters in an enclosed area
such as a recreational vehicle, camper, motor home, trailer, or
|Don't use a kitchen oven to heat your home, especially a gas
|Don't close the fireplace or wood/pellet stove damper before
the fire is completely out. |
|Don't sit in a parked car with the windows closed and the
|Don't run the car engine in an enclosed or semi-enclosed
area, such as a garage, even if the garage door is open.
|Don't ride in the back of a pickup truck with a camper
|Don't burn charcoal or use a grill indoors or in a recreational
vehicle, camper, motor home, trailer, or tent.|
|Don't place power generators or pressure washers near
windows or doors of your home.
|Don't smoke cigarettes or be near someone who is smoking in a
poorly ventilated room. |
|Don't use paint remover that contains methylene chloride. (Methylene
chloride converts to carbon monoxide in the body.) |