Carbon monoxide safety this winter: What you need to know

Odourless, tasteless and invisible, carbon monoxide is known as the silent killer for good reason: each year in Canada, it kills an estimated 300 people and sends 200 more to the hospital.

As we head into winter and heat our homes against the bitter cold outside, safety is paramount.

“The heat is cranked, the turkey is roasting in your oven and your water heater is working overtime with so many extra guests in the house. All it takes is just one of those appliances to fail and everyone could be spending Christmas in the ER or worse,” says Ted Fox, owner of Fox Plumbing, Heating, Cooling and Electrical. “While the risks associated with carbon monoxide should never be understated, the good news is that protecting your family from CO poisoning is pretty straightforward.”

The byproduct of burning fuel sources such as gasoline, natural gas, propane or wood, carbon monoxide is commonly produced by furnaces, water heaters, fireplaces, generators and even second-hand smoke. While it might be virtually impossible to detect without a specialty CO detector, keeping your family safe doesn’t have to be complicated.

4 easy ways to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning

  1. Install CO Detectors: Install CO detectors at least 15 feet from possible CO sources, check them bi-annually and make sure everyone can hear them from every room in your home.

  2. Have a licensed contractor install fuel-burning appliances: Only a licensed contractor can safely install a fuel-burning appliance and ensure they have the proper ventilation they need to work safely and efficiently.

  3. Keep fuel-burning appliances safe with regular servicing: Every fuel-burning appliance in your home needs to be inspected at minimum annually, or even semi annually to ensure they’re working properly. Spotting an appliance failure isn’t always easy but a licensed contractor knows what to look for.

  4. Other safety tips to keep in mind: Generators, barbecues and fuel-powered tools are for outside use only! Don’t keep cars idling in the garage, use your cooking range’s exhaust fans every time you cook – and crack a window if possible for additional ventilation – and if you have to smoke be sure to do it outside and away from the house.

Symptoms of CO poisoning:

  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

Higher levels of CO poisoning can also cause:

  • Vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Hallucinations
  • Coma
  • Death

If your CO monitor goes off, leave your home immediately and call 9-1-1.

Fox Plumbing, Heating, Cooling and Electrical has been recognized for Customer Service Excellence by the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce, and has been serving communities in the Thompson Okanagan since 1999. For service requests visit them online at or call them at 1-833-793-4569.

READ MORE from Fox Plumbing, Heating, Cooling and Electrical:

8 warning signs your furnace may be on its way out

What to check on your furnace, and when to consult a heating professional

Peace of mind when power surges, and A/C tips

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