Now that it's cold enough to turn on the heat, you might want to think about carbon monoxide. Brian Downey, spokesperson with Alliant Energy, says it's always a good idea to have your furnace inspected. He says it's a relatively inexpensive process that can give you peace of mind and perhaps avoid some bad circumstances. “The problem with carbon monoxide is two-fold. Number one, its symptoms are very similar to those of the flu and there really isn't any way that you can, just by walking around the house, tell that it's there without a working carbon monoxide detector.”
One of the common causes of high levels of carbon monoxide is a crack in the heat exchange in the furnace. Downey says carbon monoxide poisoning is very serious, because it interferes with the blood's ability to absorb oxygen and take it to the brain. “The main thing is get out of the house immediately, go to a friend's house. If someone is to the point that they're having difficulty walking or something like that, call 911, get an ambulance over there. And then call your heating contractor and have them come in and take a look at the house.”
Downey says, just like smoke detectors, you should have one carbon monoxide detector per floor. They cost about 30-50 bucks, depending on the features, but Downey says that's not expensive compared to the price of one's life it could save. Downey says you also need to pay attention to other heating devices, like propane heaters, and make sure the area is well ventilated.