Log burners also known as wood burning stoves are a popular and efficient way to heat homes during the colder months. They provide warmth and atmosphere to any room, but it’s important to understand the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning associated with log burners.
Carbon Monoxide which is also known as (CO) is an odourless, colourless and tasteless gas that can be deadly when inhaled in large amounts. It is often referred to and has been given the nickname of the ‘silent killer‘ as humans cannot sense it.
In this blog post, we’ll delve into the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning from log burners and how to protect yourself and your loved ones. Get tips on maintaining your stove and identifying the signs of carbon monoxide exposure.
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
Table of contents
- The Risks of CO Poisoning
- Prevention of CO Poisoning
- Identifying the Signs of CO Exposure
The Risks of CO Poisoning
What is carbon monoxide and how is it produced?
Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas that is produced when fuels like wood are burned without enough oxygen. If a wood burning stove is not properly installed, maintained, or ventilated, CO can build up in the home.
It can also be produced by gas stove, gas-powered water heaters, stoves, and furnaces may also produce carbon monoxide.
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The Symptoms of CO exposure
Symptoms from long exposure include headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. High levels of CO can lead to unconsciousness and even death.
Skin may begin to turn red. It’s important to be aware of these symptoms so you can take action if they occur.
High levels of CO and its effects
The risk of CO exposure is increased if the log burner is not installed and maintained by a professional, if the chimney or flue is not cleaned and inspected annually, or if the wrong type of fuel is used.
A common occurence is that the flue diameter is too small for the recommended size and so creating a build up of CO. All stoves should be installed inline with the manufacturers guidelines.
To prevent high levels you want to burn only hardwoods that have a moisture content of below 20%. Shutting down a stove too early can also create a build up or leaving to slumber overnight.
Best Low Smoking Hardwoods:
Burning green or wet wood produces more CO than dry wood and should be avoided.
Prevention of CO Poisoning
Importance of proper installation and maintenance by a professional
To prevent CO poisoning, it’s crucial to have your wood burning stove installed and maintained by a HETAS professional. This ensures that the stove is working properly and venting CO safely.
A professional can also advise on the best type of stove for your home and ensure that it is installed to meet local building codes and regulations.
How to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:
- Have wood burning stove professionally installed and maintained.
- Don’t slumber or shut down a log burner for long period of time.
- Use dry wood and avoid burning other materials.
- Regularly clean and inspect chimney or flue.
- Install CO detectors in every level of the home.
- Ensure proper ventilation in room with wood burning stove.
Tips for using the right type of fuel and burning it correctly
Regular cleaning and inspection of the chimney or flue is also essential to prevent the build-up of CO. A professional chimney sweep can remove any blockages and check for any damage to the chimney or flue, which can cause CO to build up in the home.
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Furthermore, black residue or stains above your fireplace opening may indicate carbon monoxide fumes are being emitted and attaching themselves onto the wall. A good indication that the log stove will rquire an inspection.
The importance of proper ventilation
Using the right type of fuel and burning it correctly is also important. Dry wood is the best choice as it produces less CO than green or wet wood.
Avoid burning other materials like paper, cardboard, or garbage, as these can also produce dangerous levels of CO.
Installation position of CO detectors
Carbon monoxide detectors are essential for detecting the presence of CO in your home. They work by sensing the levels within in the air and sounding an alarm when dangerous levels are reached.
Your carbon monoxide alarm can be installed onto a wall or ceiling. It should be no more than 3 metres away from the log burner or closer than 1 metre. The alarm should not be placed in the corners of a room or at ground level as it will not be as effective.
They should be installed on every level of your home, including basements and attics. Crucial for the main sleeping areas or any potential sources of CO, such as wood burning stoves or gas appliances.
Different from smoke alarms and should not be used as a substitute. You can also now purchase two in one combining smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in one. Both types of detectors are important for the safety of your home.
When installing a CO detectors, follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and make sure that the detector is placed at the right height and away from any sources of drafts or heat.
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CO detectors have a limited lifespan, usually between 5 to 7 years, after that time it’s important to replace them. It’s also a good idea to test the detector monthly by pressing the test button.
It is a legal requirment for log burner engineers to install a carbon monoxide alarm alongside a stove.
Always keep in mind that CO detectors are not a substitute for regular maintenance and inspection of appliances and chimneys that can produce CO, but they can provide an early warning of dangerous CO levels.
Identifying the Signs of CO Exposure
Symptoms to look out for
Common symptons include headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. Symptoms can often be mistaken for the flu, so it’s important to be aware of these signs and take action if you suspect CO exposure.
Carbon Monoxide Effects & Symptoms:
- Chest Pain
Pets can also be affected by CO exposure, so it’s important to look out for symptoms in your animals as well. Signs of CO exposure in pets include vomiting, difficulty breathing, and loss of consciousness.
If you or a family member experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to take action immediately.
What to do if you or a family member experience symptoms of CO exposure?
The first step is to open windows and doors to ventilate the area. Leave the house or building immediately if symptoms persist.
Call for emergency services and seek medical attention if symptoms are severe or if anyone has lost consciousness. Remember to inform the emergency services that you suspect CO exposure.
If your carbon manoxide alarm goes off, leave your home immediately and call for emergency services. Don’t try to find the source of the leak or turn off your CO detector.
Once the source of the CO has been identified and addressed, a professional should inspect your home and any appliances that may have been affected before you return.
To sum up, wood burning stoves can be a great source of warmth and atmosphere in the home, but it’s important to be aware of the dangers of CO poisoning.
Proper installation, maintenance, and ventilation, using the right type of fuel and burning it correctly, and installing carbon monoxide alarms can help to prevent exposure.
If you suspect CO, leave the area immediately and seek medical attention. Remember to inform the emergency services that you have incountered CO.
Regular maintenance and inspection by a professional, as well as proper ventilation, can help ensure the safety of your home and protect your family from the dangers of CO poisoning.
Seek help if experiencing symptoms of CO exposure
If you suspect CO exposure, leave the area immediately and seek medical attention. Remember to inform the emergency services that you suspect CO exposure.
Open 24 hours, report a gas or carbon monoxide emergency by calling 0800111999.
Alternatively, get in contact with your installer or supplier of your log burner who will be able to advise on the emergency and rectify the situation.