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How can I prevent CO poisoning?

The toxic gas carbon monoxide (CO) is created when fuels such as natural gas, fuel oil, coal, petrol or wood are not completely burnt.

You can avoid this by:

  • having your appliances professionally installed and regularly inspected;
  • ensuring a permanent supply of fresh air;
  • ensuring a clear outlet for the combustion gases via a chimney/flue gas outlet;
  • correct, non-permanent use of back-up heating.
Heating devices and installations for hot water production are the main possible carbon monoxide emission sources at home. On the website of the Belgian Poison Control Center you can verify for each room in your house the risk of CO poisoning (in French).

Four precautions to prevent CO

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a hazardous odour- and colourless gas that causes fatal accidents every year. It is produced when fuels are not completely burnt as a result of a malfunctioning burner, the incorrect installation or maintenance of your appliance or a chimney that does not draw properly.

All heating and hot water appliances that operate on a fuel such as natural gas, wood, fuel oil, coal, butane, propane, oil or pellets pose a risk of CO:

  • gas boilers
  • gas, wood, pellet and heating oil stoves,
  • ovens,
  • gas-fired central heating,
  • back-up heating appliances,
  • etc.

To make sure CO stands no chance, you should take four precautions.

  1. Ensure that there is a permanent supply of fresh air in the room containing the appliance by means of openings and ventilation grids. This is vitally important especially in the winter months, when you use the appliances more and the weather conditions sometimes prevent the combustion gases from being properly evacuated.
  2. Have your appliance installed and serviced by a recognised gas fitter to ensure that it is in the best possible working order
  • appliances fired by fuel oil, coal and wood should be inspected annually
  • appliances fired by natural gas and other gases should be inspected every two years
  1. Check every year to make sure that the chimney or flue gas outlet is ‘drawing’ well so that the combustion gases can escape.
  2. Never use a back-up heating appliance fired by fuel on a permanent basis, because such appliances have no outlet for the combustion gases.

A guaranteed safe solution is to use a type C enclosed natural gas appliance. This prevents any risk: the oxygen supply and the combustion gases outlet are totally separated from the room containing the appliance.

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