A Guide to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Guide to Carbon Monoxide Poisoning (CO Poisoning)

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Sources of Poisonous Carbon Monoxide: Fireplace Flames

Your fireplace is often the heart of your living space, offering a cozy spot to relax, spend time together, and enjoy the warmth and beauty of flames. But as a potential source of poisonous carbon monoxide, a fireplace must be made safe by ensuring proper installation and careful maintenance.

Carbon Monoxide from FireplaceCarbon monoxide (CO) is an invisible, odorless gas that can cause serious illness when inhaled; at excessive levels, it can be fatal. Homeowners must be aware that every fireplace, whether wood burning or gas fueled, generates CO, and every precaution must be taken to protect loved ones against its potential hazards.

How does a fireplace produce carbon monoxide?
A fireplace produces carbon monoxide when the combustion process is incomplete. Even with newly designed, manufactured models, including fireplace inserts, the combustion rate is not 100%; hence, CO is still produced. Proper installation and use of a fireplace is crucial in minimizing the level of CO in the house.

Installation and Venting
As a source of carbon monoxide, fireplace models that run on natural gas are as equally dangerous as the wood burning type. Many natural gas fireplaces are sealed and vented directly to the exterior of the home, which greatly reduces the chance of CO poisoning. The height and path of the venting is specified within the owner’s manual of each unit, and must be followed exactly for optimum safety. The installation services of a professional are highly recommended.

Ventless fireplaces are not advisable due to the high risk of carbon monoxide poisoning associated with them. Although designed for use in homes, ventless fireplaces do not have adequate measures to reduce or redirect the CO that they produce.

With wood burning fireplaces that require operational doors, proper installation of the flue or chimney liner is the most important factor. This pathway allows the dangerous CO emissions from your fireplace to rise and be eliminated, enhancing the quality of the air in the house. A well designed and professionally installed chimney provides the necessary airflow, creating efficient combustion.

Proper Use of a Fireplace
Not only does keeping the dampers open help create airflow, but burning seasoned wood also cuts down on CO emissions. With sufficient airflow and good wood, your fireplace will achieve the optimum combustion levels and the lowest levels of carbon monoxide.

Regular maintenance is essential in order to rid the chimney from dangerous build-up. Accumulation of creosote residue can reduce the level of combustion. Proper cleaning and thorough inspection of your fireplace and chimney should be an annual occurrence; however, in the case of substantial use, more frequent cleanings are required.

Wood stoves improperly used can contribute to carbon monoxide poisoning.Tips on Fireplace Operation
To reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning due to inhalation, be sure to follow these tips:


  • Have the fireplace installed by a licensed professional
  • Have your chimney designed and installed following the proper codes
  • Burn seasoned hardwood
  • Keep the dampers adequately open
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors near your fireplace, and check them regularly.
  • Have your chimney cleaned and inspected at least once a year


  • Install a ventless fireplace
  • Overload the chamber of your fireplace
  • Burn items that create a low level of combustion

As a source of carbon monoxide, a fireplace should be recognized as a potential hazard. Safety must be practiced. Enjoy the coziness and warmth of your hearth, and cherish peace of mind, knowing that your loved ones are safe.



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