Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

‘Tis the season for carbon monoxide safety

Dec. 11, 2017

Ah, the great Minnesota deep freeze. There’s nothing like it, is there? It’s the time of year when you can keep perishable food items in the garage or screened-in porch, and they won’t spoil. (Handy!) But all that extra chilly weather also means you’re using heating and cooking appliances more and getting less fresh air in the house. And all of that adds up to the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Photo of a portable CO alarm.
Photo: Carbon monoxide alarms are not only an essential in your home; they’re also important to have in boats and campers and – in the winter – your ice fishing house. If you have a portable CO alarm like the one pictured here, you can move it around as needed.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas found in the fumes that are produced anytime you burn fuel in things like engines, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, furnaces, or gas ranges – at least some of which you use in the winter. The problem comes when those items aren’t properly ventilated or if they malfunction. If, say, the dryer vent outside your house gets blocked with snow, it can cause CO buildup. Using a charcoal grill indoors or a gas generator too close to a window can do the same thing.

And because the symptoms of CO poisoning are much like those of the flu (think headache, dizziness, and nausea, for example), it can be difficult to pinpoint before it’s too late. That’s why it’s incredibly important to have a CO alarm: It could be the difference between life and death for you and your family. Place one on every level of your home and test them monthly. You can get them online or at most home improvement stores.

Make sure to take similar precautions in the garage. No one likes getting into a freezing car first thing in the morning, so it’s tempting to turn on the engine and warm it up. But if you do, pull it out of the garage first. That way CO won’t leak into your home while you go in and out to load up your car or strap the kids in.

Are you an ice angler? While you’re at the home improvement store, grab a portable CO alarm for your ice fishing house, especially if you use a heating unit. Be sure whatever heat source you use is properly ventilated and made for indoor use.

CO poisoning is a real threat: Several incidents have already happened in Minnesota this winter, including seven people in Virginia who were hospitalized for CO exposure earlier this month. But with the right precautions, CO poisoning is a threat you can deal with. So if you’ve taken the right precautions, you can grab that hot dish off the porch and heat it up in the oven knowing you’re doing so safely.