WASHINGTON - Carbon monoxide (CO) can kill you. That''s the message the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is again emphasizing since recent power outages caused by bad weather have prompted people to turn to generators and other alternative sources of power, heat, and light. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is produced when any fuel is burned.

The following are tips from the EPA that HVAC contractors can pass along to their residential customers on how to avoid CO poisoning:

DO have your fuel-burning appliances - including oil and gas furnaces, gas water heaters, gas ranges and ovens, gas dryers, gas or kerosene space heaters, fireplaces, and wood stoves - inspected by a trained professional at the beginning of every heating season. Make certain that the flues and chimneys are connected, in good condition, and not blocked.

DO choose appliances that vent their fumes to the outside whenever possible, have them properly installed, and maintain them according to manufacturers’ instructions.

DO read and follow all of the instructions that accompany any fuel-burning device. If you cannot avoid using an unvented gas or kerosene space heater, carefully follow the cautions that come with the device. Use the proper fuel and keep doors to the rest of the house open. Crack a window to ensure enough air for ventilation and proper fuel-burning.

DON’T idle the car in a garage - even if the garage door to the outside is open. Fumes can build up very quickly in the garage and living area of your home.

DON’T use a gas oven to heat your home, even for a short time.

DON’T ever use a charcoal grill indoors - even in a fireplace.

DON''T sleep in any room with an unvented gas or kerosene space heater.

DON’T use any gasoline-powered engines (mowers, weed trimmers, snow blowers, chain saws, small engines, or generators) in enclosed spaces.

DON’T ignore symptoms of CO poisoning, such as dizziness or nausea, particularly if more than one person is feeling them. You could lose consciousness and die if you do nothing.

For more information, go to www.epa.gov/iaq/pubs/coftsht.html.

Publication date: 01/01/2007