November has arrived, and that means fall is nearly halfway over. With winter, bitter cold, and even snow just a few weeks away, the warm days of the year are only a distant memory. Shorts and sandals have been retired for the year, and most people are starting to bundle up in jackets and scarves before leaving the house. For those with fireplaces, most people have begun prepping theirs for use, if they have not used them already this season. If proper maintenance for your fireplace is not on the agenda before the upcoming winter, you are putting your safety at risk. One of the more dangerous results of a poorly maintained fireplace and chimney is the commonly known gas called carbon monoxide.
Carbon monoxide is actually a tiny molecule produced in large quantities during any combustion process. Therefore, whenever a substance burns, one of the products is always carbon monoxide. This includes everything from car exhaust to gas ranges, wood stoves, and even your charcoal grill. For this reason, it is never recommended to run your vehicle in a closed garage or to grill indoors. Carbon monoxide can fill any enclosed space up very quickly as a flammable material burns, and you may not even realize it. The gas has no scent, no color, and no taste, so the only way you can know it is there is by trusting the carbon monoxide detector in your home.
If the concentration of carbon monoxide in the home hits a critical level, you and your family can begin to suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning. Here, the carbon monoxide takes the place of oxygen in your body, and you essentially begin to suffocate. The signs of poisoning include difficulty breathing, light headedness, nausea, and unconsciousness. Immediate movement to an open outdoor area will ease the symptoms, but the onset can be so sudden that the affected person is incapable of movement by the time he or she realizes what is happening.
These terrifying dangers of carbon monoxide are very real, and it could happen to you if you do not take proper care of your fireplace. For example, any obstruction in the chimney can lead to high levels of carbon monoxide in the home. An animal and its nest in the chimney block the smoke and fumes from effectively venting through the chimney, and they have no choice but to back up into your home. Your chimney can also experience an obstruction if creosote is allowed to build up in the chimney. This tarry product of burning wood clings readily to the flue lining, and it can build up to the point of completely closing up the chimney, which causes a backup of carbon monoxide into your home. A simple chimney sweep or inspection every year can take care of these potential hazards.
Carbon monoxide is a serious danger and no one is immune to its affects. To prevent your family from this insidious threat, simple maintain your fireplace and chimney properly. A call to your local mason and inspector is in order to schedule a chimney sweep and inspection this season. If you live in the Louisville area, contact All American Chimney Service, LLC for a professional consultation.