The arrival of frigid weather means Minnesotans are buttoning up their homes and spending more time indoors.
CenterPoint Energy is offering tips on how residents can safely heat their home or business and how they can protect themselves from the dangers of carbon monoxide.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless and non-irritating poisonous gas. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can resemble the common flu - headaches, nausea, fatigue, confusion and dizziness - and can vary depending on age, health, level of physical activity and the duration and concentration of exposure. Fuel-burning appliances, equipment and engines produce carbon monoxide, which is more likely to reach dangerous levels if the products are improperly maintained, operated or adjusted or because of insufficient ventilation.
The following tips can help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:
Have a professional technician or heating dealer inspect all fuel-burning appliances annually.
Make sure all fuel burning appliances are properly vented and that the vents are in good condition and clear of debris and blockages. Visually inspect the vents for rust, holes or gaps.
Make sure all fuel burning appliances show a clear blue flame. A yellow or orange flame may indicate a problem.
Do not operate fuel burning appliances in small, tightly sealed areas.
Make sure fresh air intakes to the home are not blocked or restricted.
Install a carbon monoxide alarm as an added layer of defense. Look for a device with an audible alarm and digital readout. Minnesota law requires carbon monoxide alarms in all new construction and eventually will require them in existing homes and apartments.
Make sure chimneys are clear of debris and blockages. Never leave a smoldering fire.
Do not use a charcoal grill inside the home or garage, and do not store it in the garage until the coals are completely extinguished.
Do not heat a room with a gas range, oven or clothes dryer.
Look for signs that the home is not receiving enough fresh air for moisture control and proper appliance operation. Signs include excessive humidity indicated by heavy moisture or frost on the inside of windows; soot on the ceilings and walls, front of a fireplace or front panel of a furnace; and a peculiar, stale odor or burning sensation to the eyes when appliances are operating.
Do not leave a vehicle running in an attached garage, which can produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide that gradually will enter the home, even if the garage door is left open. Pull the vehicle all the way out of the garage immediately after starting it and then close the garage door.
If you suspect carbon monoxide is present, take these actions:
Open windows to ventilate the area.
Open the door of an attached garage.
Shut off the furnace and other fuel-burning appliances.
If you experience physical symptoms, get all persons and pets out of the premises and seek medical attention.
If you are a CenterPoint Energy customer, call the emergency phone number at (612) 372-5050 or (800) 722-9326. A company technician will check your natural gas appliances. If CenterPoint does not find your appliances were producing carbon monoxide at unsafe levels at the time they were checked, and if you still are experiencing signs that carbon monoxide is present, call the Minnesota Department of Commerce at (651) 296-5175. The department will refer you to organizations that can diagnose air-flow problems.
Take the following steps if you smell natural gas:
Leave immediately. Do not return until given permission by utility or emergency officials. Do not use electric switches, phones or anything that can cause a spark.
Go to a safe location and call CenterPoint Energy and then call 911.
Alert your neighbors.
Leave all repairs to trained professionals. Do not try to repair a leak yourself.
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