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Day after day, year after year, natural gas flows to your home and is used without incident. But it can be dangerous if it is not confined. For a detailed brochure, click here.

What is Carbon Monoxide?
It’s a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas that may be present when a fuel is not burned completely. When natural gas is burned completely, only water and carbon dioxide are produced. Neither is toxic.

But when the mixture of fuel and oxygen is out of balance, carbon monoxide may be produced. It is a deadly poison. Any fuel — wood, coal, oil, propane, kerosene — can produce carbon monoxide. You also may be acquainted with carbon monoxide from automobiles. It is produced by internal combustion engines — which is why we don’t warm up our auto engines with garage doors closed.

What is back drafting?
A situation called “back drafting” is the main cause of most carbon monoxide problems. Carbon monoxide build-up in a home can be caused by one of two conditions.

  1. When fuel-burning appliances, such as water heaters and heating systems, do not have adequate combustion air, the combustion air source may be drawn from another appliance’s vent. When that occurs, the appliance can no longer vent flue gas to the outside properly and may backdraft into the house.
  2. Flues of fuel-burning equipment are clogged and combustion gases exhaust into living areas. Or, fuel burning systems may have flaws, such as holes in exhaust flues or cracks in heat exchangers. Again, carbon monoxide escapes into living areas.

What are the symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning?

  • headache
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • fatigue
  • confusion
  • tightening of the chest
  • unusual yawning
  • irritation of nose, mouth, eyes

Such flu-like symptoms may affect an entire family. They may disappear when you are away from home for a period of time, then return after you’re back home for awhile.

What if you suspect Carbon Monoxide poisoning?
If the symptoms of poisoning seem acute, get the victim or victims to fresh air immediately. If a victim is not breathing, begin artificial resuscitation immediately and have someone call for emergency medical assistance.

As a NorthWestern Energy natural gas customer, call on us to check your home for carbon monoxide if you suspect you have a problem. Our NorthWestern Energy gas servicemen carry carbon monoxide detectors and know what to look for. If you must ventilate the building, realize that ventilation may make carbon monoxide undetectable later. You also may choose to turn off fuel-burning appliances you suspect are not operating properly.

What if you smell gas?
If you smell gas in your home or building, take action immediately.

  • If the gas odors seem strong, evacuate the building immediately.
  • Do not use a phone or flip a light switch. The spark from either could set off an explosion.
  • Call NorthWestern from another location — we’ll dispatch help immediately.
  • Stay away until NorthWestern arrives to check things out.
  • Remember:  Natural gas has no odor. We add the distinctive odor for your protection.  
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