Carbon Monoxide Hauntings – CO & Furnace Safety

carbon monoxide hauntings - CO safety adviceMany apparent ghost and haunted house stories can be traced back to a carbon monoxide leak. Before the many dangers of CO poisoning were known, the effects of CO poisoning were often attributed to ghosts and supernatural spirits.

In fact, a Halloween episode of This American Life from 2006 recounted a haunted house story that turned out to be the result of a carbon monoxide leak from the family’s furnace:

“The adults and the children are held down in their beds by unseen figures. Beds shake. Their plants die. They and their children feel weak and they have no energy. They get severe headaches… A quick investigation shows that the furnace is actually sending carbon monoxide fumes into the house, instead of up the chimney. They fix that and the ghostly hauntings stop. They don’t feel sick any more either, which makes a lot of sense.”

If you are hearing and seeing things, feeling zapped of energy, and sense a strange presence at home, it may be due to a carbon monoxide leak.

Carbon monoxide is produced whenever fuel is burned, whether it be gas, oil, wood, or charcoal. Since carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless gas, it’s impossible to detect without a CO detector.

SYMPTOMS OF CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING

If you are experience any of these “hauntings,” you may be a victim of CO poisoning:

EARLY SYMPTOMS:

 

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Giddiness
  • Nausea

 

WORSENING SYMPTOMS:

 

  • Weakness and Lack of Energy
  • Blurred Vision
  • Fast Heart Rate and Breathing
  • Hallucinations

 

DANGER SIGNS: 

 

  • Heart Problems and Chest Pains
  • Seizures and Convulsions
  • Collapse and Loss of Consciousness
  • Coma
  • Death

 

WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE A CO LEAK:

If you have any suspicions of a CO leak in your house, evacuate everyone in the building immediately and then call 911 from a safe distance. If you are already feeling symptoms of CO poisoning (many people describe flu-like symptoms), get to the emergency room as quickly as possible.

Even small amounts of carbon monoxide can cause irreparable damage, including brain and organ damage. See a doctor immediately if there is any evidence of carbon monoxide leaks in the home.

While it may seem as though there are dark forces at work, it’s probably just a faulty furnace. You want to make sure you address CO leaks immediately as exposure can lead to death very quickly.

COMMON SOURCES OF CARBON MONOXIDE LEAKS

 

  • Cars, Trucks, and Other Engines
  • Fireplaces
  • Wood Stove
  • Oven
  • Dryer
  • Water Heater
  • Generators
  • Furnace
  • Fuel-Burning Appliances

 

CARBON MONOXIDE SAFETY TIPS

Carbon monoxide poisoning increases in the fall and winter when we are spending more time indoors. Take heed of these carbon monoxide safety tips:

  • Schedule professional heating maintenance every fall. Sign up for a Home Maintenance Plan to automate this important home maintenance task.
  • Never run engines in an enclosed area such as the garage, even if doors and windows are open.
  • Be careful of any engines that are left running, even if they are on the side of the house. The CO produced could end up wafting through doors and windows and affect anyone inside.
  • If you need to warm up your vehicle during winter weather, start the car and immediately drive it out of your garage to let it idle.
  • If fuel-burning appliances haven’t been installed properly, you are at risk for a CO leak. This is why you should always spend the money on important home services such as HVAC, plumbing and electrical, where shoddy work can lead to huge safety issues.
  • Inspect fireplace, chimney, and flues before each heating season to make sure they are properly sealed and not blocked.
  • Remember to change your air filter every 30-60 days to increase airflow in your HVAC system and prevent any air blockages and dust from dirtying up your unit, ductwork, and home. A blocked air filter increases your risk of CO poisoning.

When we increase our home’s insulation in the winter and keep doors and windows closed, we raise the risk of being a victim of CO poisoning. Fuel-burning heating systems are more likely to emit dangerous CO gases in enclosed areas with little ventilation. Newer homes normally have more ventilation problems because they are more insulated.

Although it may be tempting, never run your generator, grill, lawn equipment, or any engine indoors. These are meant to operate outdoors as the carbon monoxide produced will be able to diffuse through the atmosphere.

For more Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips, adhere to these NFPA tips and tricks: