Photograph of a Drager hand pump used to measure carbon dioxide levels in the environment.Heating System CO Check
Recommended for Carbon Monoxide - CPSC Release 88-92

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This US CPSC document describes a brief heating system safety warning for homeowners.

The CPSC reminds owners to be sure that their heating service contractor also checks the chimney, flue, and flue vent connector as part of annual service (or when a problem is suspected). Unsafe chimneys and flues present a carbon monoxide hazard risk which can be fatal, as well as fire risks in buildings.

We [website authors] advise that special care be taken to inspect older buildings with large masonry flues into which gas-fired appliances have been vented, dead-end chimneys which are easily blocked by falling debris, chimneys with no caps (easily invaded by birds or animals), single-wythe brick flues (a fire and gas leak hazard), and chimneys which have been damaged by leaks or movement. The US CPSC document follows.

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Home Heating System Should Be Checked for CO Carbon Monoxide Hazards

November 3, 1988
Release # 88-92

Home Heating System Should Be Checked Now
[for proper venting and for CO Carbon Monoxide Hazards - DJF]

WASHINGTON - Government safety experts are urging consumers to have central heating systems inspected this fall even though the heat may have already been turned on.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that central heating equipment be inspected annually by a qualified heating contractor. The furnace or boiler as well as electrical and mechanical components, valves, thermostat controls and automatic safety switches should be tested for proper operation to protect against possible overheating or fuel leaks which may result in fire or explosion.

Although heating contractors do not routinely inspect venting systems as part of the checkup, consumers should ask the contractor to examine the flue and chimney for possible problems. Blockages may be caused by mortar and other material loosened from chimney walls, bird nests or debris.

Chimneys and flues should be clear at all times so exhaust gases, including carbon monoxide (CO), are properly vented outside the home. Flues and flue connectors should be checked for tight, secure fitting, and for signs of rust or corrosion, which could allow exhaust gases to enter the house.

CPSC cautioned homeowners to beware of carbon monoxide fumes (CO) in the home. CO is colorless, odorless, and is sometimes called "the silent killer." People exposed to harmful levels of CO often show symptoms similar to flu-type illnesses, including dizziness, fatigue, headaches, irregular breathing and nausea. In the most recent year for which statistics are available, CPSC estimates that almost 60 deaths could be attributed to carbon monoxide gas emitted from central heating equipment.

The federal agency also stressed the importance of chimney inspections where oil or solid fuel heating systems have recently been converted to gas. After the conversion, accumulated soot and debris on the chimney may loosen and fall.

If enough debris collects inside the chimney, it could block the chimney and cause a buildup of dangerous levels of carbon monoxide in the home. If the fall checkup of the heating system shows an accumulation of soot in the chimney, a chimney sweep should be called to clean the chimney and flue; annual chimney inspections should be made until no more soot is found.

CPSC said homeowners planing on converting to gas heat should have the chimney inspected when the conversion is made, then annually thereafter.

Dangerous Product Reports to the US CPSC: To report a dangerous product or a product-related injury, call CPSC's hotline at (800) 638-2772 or CPSC's teletypewriter at (800) 638-8270, or visit CPSC's web site at


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