4 Simple Steps to Avoid Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in the Winter

Two residential heat pumps buried in snow.

Proper airflow is crucial to a furnace working properly. Without proper airflow, your furnace may have problems starting. It could also lead to more dangerous situations like Carbon Monoxide leaks inside your home.

Carbon Monoxide is a silent and deadly killer. It’s an odorless, colourless and tasteless gas. It is produced when fuels are burned. The danger is increased when that combustion is not properly ventilated or when the Carbon Monoxide can’t dissipate due to a blockage.

Symptoms caused by Carbon Monoxide poisoning can easily be confused with symptoms of the flu. And with the flu being more common during the winter months, it makes it even more crucial to checking your furnace’s airflow during these months.

Symptoms of low Carbon Monoxide exposure may include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling tired
  • Impairment of motor functions
  • Headaches
  • Having trouble thinking
  • Chest pain

Symptoms of high Carbon Monoxide exposure may include

  • Convulsions
  • Coma
  • Death can occur within minutes

It’s important to follow these steps after each snowfall in the winter to make sure your furnace runs properly.

  1. Inside your home, go to your furnace and look for white or black plastic pipes and note the spot where they exit through the wall. These are the intake and exhaust pipes.
  2. Now, go outside and find the location of where you saw the pipes exit to on the exterior of your home. Frequently, they are located near the ground, by the foundation, but sometimes, the pipes are located near the roof and you may need a ladder to access them.
  3. Ideally, the pipes should have a clear surrounding area of 3 feet. Examine this area to make sure it is clear of snow, ice build-up, leaves, dirt and other debris that could block the flow of air. Make sure to look inside the pipes as well in case there is something obstructing the inside.
  4. If you do find any obstructions, remove them. Once the pipes are cleared, your furnace should start right away if you were having issues with it starting. If it doesn’t, there should be instructions on how to start it located near the access panel or the furnace itself.
  5. If the furnace still doesn’t start, then there is a separate issue that needs to be looked at or there is still an obstruction causing the issue.