Safety tips to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning

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HOUSTON - As the Houston area prepares for another wave of cold weather, officials are reminding natural gas customers to go over the safety tips to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

CenterPoint Energy says natural gas customers should be aware of these tips when using heat or any other fuel-burning appliance, including wood stoves, fireplaces, space heaters, barbecue grills, furnaces, water heaters, boilers and ranges, because they have the potential to produce carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide, or CO, is a poisonous gas that is colorless, odorless, tasteless and non-irritating. When breathed, CO combines with the blood and prevents it from absorbing oxygen.

Officials say carbon monoxide is often the result of improperly adjusted or poorly-vented appliances. In addition to annual check-ups of these appliances, the following tips will help to prevent CO buildup:

  • Have your heating system checked annually prior to heating season by a qualified heating and air conditioning technician.
  • Follow manufacturers' operating instructions properly for gas heating equipment.
  • Do not use stovetop burners or ovens to heat a room since they are not designed for this use.
  • Make sure to follow the blue flame rule. Natural gas flames should burn blue except natural gas fireplace logs which burn orange to have a more realistic wood-burning look.
  • Crack windows slightly if using unvented space heaters.
  • Consider buying a CO detector as another line of defense against CO poisoning. CenterPoint Energy recommends buying one with an audible alarm and continuous digital display; make sure it is tested to the national standard for residential CO detectors (UL2034 or IAS NO. 6-96).

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion, according to the CDC.  

If this occurs, get fresh air immediately and call CenterPoint Energy at 1- 888-876-5786.

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