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Dangerous carbon monoxide poisoning can be avoided

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You can’t see, smell or taste it, but carbon monoxide can be deadly. Even breathing low levels of CO over a long period can harm your heart and brain. Protect everyone in your home from this silent killer!

Did you know almost half of all accidental carbon monoxide deaths happen in January, February and March? That’s when our homes are closed up and when we burn the most fuel. Here’s how to protect everyone in your home ­– people and pets –  from CO poisoning.

CO detectors for early warning

A carbon monoxide detector works like a smoke detector: It sounds an alarm you when dangerous CO levels build up. Devices start at $20 and are simple to install – you just plug them into a standard electrical outlet. Many models have battery backup so you’re protected even if the power goes out.

The National Fire Protection Association recommends installing CO alarms in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home.

Preventive maintenance can save lives

Keep your gas-burning appliances and furnace, as well as your fireplace or woodstove, maintained. Have them inspected by a qualified contractor each year. Correct any problems right away. Repairing something like a ventilation pipe can save lives.

Keep an eye out for these signs of a potential problem:

  • Streaks of soot around an appliance
  • Fallen soot in a fireplace
  • Excess condensation on windows and cold surfaces
  • An orange or yellow flame in combustion appliances; the flame should burn blue
  • Discoloration of bricks at the top of your chimney

Don’t let snow block furnace ventilation

Snow can block chimneys as well as intake and exhaust pipes on high-efficiency furnaces. When these outdoor ventilation channels get blocked, it could result in carbon monoxide poisoning indoors.

When you clear your drive and walkways, check the exterior parts of your heating system. Even if there’s not a lot of snow, blowing and drifting can block the chimney and vents.

Safe generator use

When using a back-up generator during a power outage, keep it at least 25 feet away from an enclosed area to keep the exhaust from entering your home. And never use a generator inside your home or garage. Proper ventilation is critical!

If you suspect CO poisoning, get fresh air fast

Consumers Energy says if anyone in your home feels dizzy, light-headed, nauseous, confused or has a headache, get everyone, including pets, out of the home and into fresh air.

Then call 9-1-1 for medical help.

Don’t go back inside your home until help has arrived, your house has been investigated and the problem is corrected.

With CO detectors, annual maintenance of appliances and safe generator use, you can protect everyone in your home from the dangers of carbon monoxide.

Consumers helps more than 1,000 members finance their homes each year. When you need a mortgage or home equity line of credit for your home improvements, call us at 800-991-2221. We’re here to help you get the home of your dreams!

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