A Closer Look: ‘Silent killer’ threat demands detectors

Originally published in the London Free Press

By Rob Parker

With frigid temperatures present in many regions of our province over the past few weeks, it’s no surprise we’ve heard advertisements reminding people of the dangers of using fuel-based appliances in the home and the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Often referred to as “the silent killer,” carbon monoxide (CO) exposure causes symptoms such as headaches and nausea that are often mistaken for the flu or misdiagnosed as another ailment.

Bill 20, the Hawkins Gignac Act (Carbon Monoxide Detectors), 2012, a private member’s bill, put forth by Oxford MPP Ernie Hardeman as a result of the death of a family from Oxford County, is now law in Ontario.

CO is produced when fossil fuels are burned and not provided with sufficient air for combustion or ventilation. Due care and attention should be afforded both inside and outside your home and/or workplace to the safe operation and maintenance of any fuel burning appliances.

Small doses of CO poisoning, depending on how often and at what levels, can cause a variety of short-term problems for people, such as heart and other major organ problems, memory or cognitive problems or changes in behaviour and personality, all of which could cause serious permanent problems or even death if undetected.

There are two types of carbon monoxide detectors available on the market today, a wall plug-in and a hard-wired type.

The plug-in type is the easiest to install as it just plugs into an outlet, while the other hard-wired type is usually mounted and hard-wired to the ceiling.

Many models of both types come with a battery backup system in the event of power outage.

Most of the ceiling mounted units are combination smoke and carbon monoxide detector.

If your home already has hard-wired smoke detectors, these units can be easily changed to combination units.

According to legislation, the location of all detectors should be adjacent to bedroom doors with an audible alarm that can be heard in the bedroom when the door is closed.

Some CO safety tips:

  • Have a licensed professional inspect all fuel-burning appliances annually. Boaters with watercraft that have sleeping quarters, generators and/or inboard gas engines should also have annual inspections and CO alarms.
  • Replace carbon monoxide alarms every five to seven years or in accordance with manufacturer recommendations.
  • Replace batteries in CO alarms at least once annually.
  • Consider purchasing CO alarms that have a digital display, which will alert you before harmful levels of carbon monoxide are reached.
  • Never start a vehicle in a closed garage; open the garage doors first. Pull the car out immediately onto the driveway, then close the garage door to prevent exhaust fumes from being drawn into the house.
  • Do not use a remote automobile starter when the car is in the garage; even if the garage doors are open.
  • Never operate propane, natural gas or charcoal barbecue grills indoors or in an attached garage.
  • Regularly clean clothes dryer ducts and outside vent covers for blockages such as lint, snow, or overgrown outdoor plants.
  • If your CO alarm sounds, evacuate and call 911.

Rob Parker is a registered home inspector (RHI) with the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors, and an ASHI certified inspector (ACI) with the American Society of Home Inspectors . Rob can be reached at Thamespec Home Inspection Service (519) 857-7101, by email at thamespec@rogers.com or visit www.thamespec-inspections.com 

Date : 1/18/2018