Carbon Monoxide and Your Fireplace

Pretty much everyone knows that carbon monoxide is dangerous.  A lot of us have carbon monoxide alarms already installed in our homes, right next to our smoke detectors. Carbon monoxide is one of those unseen enemies, which makes it even more frightening than the prospect of sleeping through a rogue fire in the home. The effects of carbon monoxide aren’t just deadly—there often isn’t a way to determine what’s happening before it’s too late. Mild poisoning can include symptoms of fatigue, nausea, dizziness, headache and shortness of breath. Severe poisoning, however, can hit quickly and cause loss of muscle control or consciousness, as well as vomiting. If not treated immediately, severe cases usually end with fatality.

Carbon monoxide can be produced by any kind of fuel-burning appliance, including fireplaces, heating systems, stoves and space heaters that burn fuels such as wood, coal, propane, kerosene, oils or natural gas. If any of these appliances aren’t burning completely, carbon monoxide is a result. Without a working exhaust, that carbon monoxide can fill the home and cause poisoning.

Anytime you burn something in your fireplace, what remains is a source of carbon monoxide.

Anytime you burn something in your fireplace, what remains is a source of carbon monoxide.

While it’s good to be cautious and careful about the use of any appliance that burns fuel, there are steps you can take to ensure that you can burn wood in your fireplace or stove successfully and safely. The CSPC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) directs consumers to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning by having appliances “installed by qualified professionals”. Certified chimney sweeps must follow strict guidelines during installation, inspections and cleanings to adhere to safety regulations. You’ll gain confidence in knowing that the job was well done and your fireplace or stove, whether gas or wood, is properly exhausted so your air is clean and safe.

In addition to professional installation of your appliances, here are three things you can do to reduce carbon monoxide emissions while using your fireplace:

  1. First and foremost, have your fireplace or stove inspected and cleaned annually.
  2. Burn only dry, seasoned wood and keep your fire hot by stoking it frequently. This feeds the fire with oxygen and helps the heat stay high. Hotter temperatures equal complete and successful fuel combustion.
  3. If you haven’t already done so, install carbon monoxide detectors. The NFPA recommends placing them outside all sleeping areas and on every level of your home.

At Pozzi, we serve the Northern Illinois area, so don’t hesitate to give us a call to address your concerns about any aspect of your fireplace functioning. We have certified technicians and chimney sweeps that work hard to give you the confidence you need to enjoy your fireplace or stove.