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Insurance Advisors' Newsletter
November 2014

Colder Weather Can Create Carbon Monoxide Issues

By Susan Cormier for Insurance Advisors


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IA Team

As the weather gets colder and people have their furnaces running, the risk increases of carbon monoxide exposure.

Often referred to as a silent killer, carbon monoxide can be a serious problem for homeowners. Any home appliance that burns fuel – such as a gas furnace, gas stove, gas hot water heater - creates carbon monoxide during the burning process. Liquid fuel space heaters and wood stoves can also contribute.

If individuals are overexposed to this invisible, odorless, poisonous gas, they can develop flu-like symptoms, serious sickness and even die – as happened in 2008 and 2009 in Colorado.

In November 2008, Parker and Caroline Lofgren and their two children were overcome by carbon monoxide when they were spending the Thanksgiving weekend at a $9 million mansion in Aspen– a vacation they won as part of a fundraising auction for the kids’ school.

The newly built 3,250-square-foot house had a faulty pipe in the heating and snow melt system, which leaked carbon monoxide and killed the family while they slept.

In a second incident on Jan 5, 2009, Lauren Johnson, a 23-year-old graduate student at DU’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies, died of carbon monoxide poisoning in her off-campus apartment.

As a result of the tragedies, Colorado passed a law in 2009 requiring all single and multi-family homes to have a carbon monoxide detector if they have a fuel burning heater or appliance, a fireplace, or an attached garage and are sold, rented, remodeled or repaired after July 1, 2009.

Detectors are the only sure way to know if carbon monoxide is building up in your home. They should be installed on each floor, especially near bedrooms. If the carbon monoxide alarm sounds, you should move immediately to fresh air and call 911.

Here’s a list of some other steps you can take to help protect yourself against carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Don't try to repair appliances that burn fuel, such as a furnace, dryer or hot water heater. Please, leave the repairs to the experts. Faulty venting or ductwork can lead to carbon monoxide inside your house. 
  • Don't use a gas range or oven to help heat for your home. It’s much better – and safer – to purchase a UL-Listed space heater, but make sure it's vented correctly.
  • Never allow anyone to sleep in a room with a gas appliance that isn't connected to an exterior vent.
  • Never leave your car running in an attached garage, even with the garage door open.
  • Never use charcoal grills or camp stoves inside the house or the garage.
  • Try not to use gasoline-powered tools inside the house. If you must, make sure the exhaust is vented outside.
  • As an extra safety measure, have the following items inspected annually: heating system/furnace, water heater, vents/chimney and fireplace/wood stove.

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