Friday, November 17, 2023

Real Estate: Carbon Monoxide Safety

By Nicole Foster, Broker/ REALTOR

November is National Carbon Monoxide Awareness Month and is a time to promote safety awareness surrounding the increased risks to Maine residents during the cold weather months.

Each year between one to three people in Maine die from carbon monoxide poisoning, and approximately 150 people visit the emergency room to receive treatment for it. 

The overwhelming majority of these incidents take place between the months of November through March. Carbon Monoxide, or “CO,” is an odorless, colorless gas that is found in fumes which are created any time you burn fuel. You are burning fuel every time your oil or gas fired boiler and furnace kicks on, or when your gas fireplace, gas stove or other gas operated appliances are used. CO can also be found in the exhaust fumes from kerosene space heaters, generators, and vehicles while in use.

When CO builds up indoors it poisons the people and animals who breathe it, making them sick or killing them. Everyone can be affected by CO poisoning but those with chronic heart disease, anemia, respiratory issues, the elderly, and infants are most likely to be impacted. CO poisoning symptoms can be described as “flu-like” but it often occurs when people are sleeping, and no symptoms are displayed.

If you have purchased a single or multifamily property after October 31, 2009, then you may recall having seen a form at the closing that the buyers were required to sign and date stating if the property does not currently have CO detectors installed then the new owners will be sure to do so within 30 days of the closing date or prior to taking occupancy. It also requires that the CO detectors be installed in each area within or giving access to bedrooms and they must be powered both by the electrical service in the dwelling or building and by battery.

This statute was enacted after a state study was conducted looking for the causes for the epidemic of CO poisoning related deaths following the ice storm in January 1998, when many Maine residents were improperly using generators to keep their homes and families warm and were killed as a result.

Now is the time to think about prolonged power outages during cold weather, and to begin making a solid plan. Consider how you will keep your property warm enough to prevent the pipes from freezing if you do not have electricity for a week or possibly longer. If you need to use a portable generator as a part of your plan, identify the place you will put it in the open air (not inside an enclosed area where fumes can accumulate) while keeping it protected from sleet, snow, and ice. Never use a generator in a garage or a basement. Be sure to dry your hands to prevent shock before touching a generator in wet conditions and always place it at least 20 feet away from any windows, doors, and vents.

If you run a kerosene heater indoors it is important to crack windows and leave doors open to other rooms to prevent CO from building up. Follow the instructions for setting the height for the wick and use only crystal-clear K-1 grade fuel.

When burning decorative logs for heat keep the flue open in your chimney and crack windows for ventilation. It is unsafe to heat your home using a gas range or oven. Do not use an outdoor gas or charcoal grill indoors for heating or cooking.

Do not skip out on the annual maintenance of your gas, oil, coal, or wood burning heating systems and be sure to use a qualified service technician. To prevent creosote blockage from letting CO build up indoors have your chimney swept annually before winter use. Make sure that all your gas appliances are vented properly. You should not run a vehicle inside a garage which is attached to a house, even with the garage door open.

When you set the clocks back in the fall and ahead in the spring, be sure to check your smoke and CO detectors are in good working order and have fresh batteries twice each year. Most stores carry combination smoke and CO detectors. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission has recalled Kidde brand hard-wired smoke and combination smoke/carbon monoxide alarms from 2014 because the alarms could fail following a power outage with 1.2 million sold in the US. If you have this model (Model i12010S) you should replace it. Look for the UL mark with the "Single Station Carbon Monoxide Alarm" statement when purchasing a new one. <

Nicole Foster is a real estate Broker since 2005 and is a Windham resident and parent. Visit or Insta @207nicolefoster.

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