Carbon monoxide is a deadly gas that results from burning different types of materials and gases. The U.S. Fire Administration notes that more than one-third of Americans heat their homes primarily with fireplaces, stoves or other similar appliances. Fireplaces can provide heat and ambiance to a room, but if not used properly, they can be deadly whether wood or gas is used. Propane fireplaces should be used properly and serviced at least annually to ensure safety.
A propane fireplace emits carbon dioxide due to the normal process of combustion. As the gas burns, carbon monoxide is formed as the by-product. It is impossible to tell without a carbon monoxide detector whether the gas is in your home because it is odorless and colorless. Carbon monoxide detectors should be installed on each floor of your home and tested regularly to ensure that the batteries work.
A propane fireplace should always be vented outside. Failure to properly vent a fireplace causes the carbon monoxide to pour into the home instead of outside and can result in carbon monoxide poisoning and death in a matter of minutes. Chimneys should also be cleaned and inspected each year to ensure that they remain open and unblocked. Always consult a qualified professional to inspect and clean your fireplace and chimney. Always leave the damper open when the fireplace is in use for proper ventilation.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur very quickly and cause death if it isn't treated. If you have a propane fireplace and notice flu-like symptoms with quick onset such as fatigue, nausea and muscle aches or impaired mental function, go outside in the fresh air and call 911 or other emergency personnel immediately. A working carbon monoxide detector will alert you to the presence of this dangerous gas, eliminating the question of whether you actually are sick with the flu, or if carbon monoxide poisoning is occurring.
Not only should propane fireplaces be cleaned and maintained by properly, they should also be installed by a professional. To prevent carbon monoxide from leaking into your home, have the fireplace installed by a trained individual, knowledgeable of installation and safety requirements to prevent problems from occurring. Never skimp on professional installation in an attempt to do-it-yourself and save money.
Amber Canaan has a medical background as a registered nurse in labor and delivery and pediatric oncology. She began her writing career in 2005, focusing on pregnancy and health. Canaan has a degree in science from the Cabarrus College of Health Sciences and owns her own wellness consulting business.