They say it’s a silent killer. Odorless, colorless, toxic fumes with symptoms similar to those of having the flu. It can kill you and your loved ones without you even knowing its there. Are you safeguarding your home against this deadly threat?

Step one is knowing where the threat comes from. The United States Environmental Protection Agency states carbon monoxide can come from “unvented kerosene and gas space heaters; leaking chimneys and furnaces; back-drafting from furnaces, gas water heaters, wood stoves, and fireplaces; gas stoves; generators and other gasoline powered equipment; automobile exhaust from attached garages; and tobacco smoke.” (http://www.epa.gov/iaq/co.html)

With winter upon us, and the possibility of power outages during large winter storms a reality, many homes have generators to help in these situations. But improper installation can cause carbon monoxide levels to rise, putting your family at risk. Ensure that generators are installed outside, away from your home, to ensure fumes aren’t entering your home. Never install generators in your home, including your garage or basement.

Another winter threat is fireplaces, wood or gas, and wood stoves. As you are snuggling up during a long winter night, you need to ensure that ventilation is sufficient. It’s always best to have a trained professional inspect and clean your fireplaces and wood stoves on a yearly basis.

So what else can you do? Buying a carbon monoxide detector is a cheap and easy way to ensure you are safe. For as little as $20, you can purchase detectors that will alert you if carbon monoxide levels get too high. And if they do, you can quickly evacuate the house and call the fire department for inspection of your home. Most states now require that when you sell your home, these detectors are already installed, just like fire and smoke alarms have been required for years.

So be safe this winter season and take precautions as needed. It really could save your life!

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When the power goes out many people turn to portable generators for electricity. Portable generators are a great asset to have but they can also pose serious safety hazards if not used properly.

Here are some tips on how to stay safe when operating a portable generator:

Always read and observe the manufacturer’s instructions for safe operation.

Use heavy duty, outdoor rated extension cords with a wire gauge adequate for the appliance load.

If you are hard-wiring the generator to your home only use a qualified electrician to connect the generator to the house wiring.  Make sure the electrician also installs a manual transfer switch to prevent a backfeed and prevent damage to your generator, wiring and appliances when power is restored.

Only operate a generator outdoors in a well-ventilated, dry area to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

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