Carbon Monoxide Detectors: Why We Love Them and Why You Should Too
Who needs a carbon monoxide detector?
Anyone using any type of combustion heating such as wood stoves, fireplaces of any kind, gas and oil furnaces, in addition to gas appliances such as water heaters, stoves, and more. The incomplete combustion of fossil fuels such as coal, wood, charcoal, kerosene, propane, and natural gas used to power these items naturally produces CO (carbon monoxide) fumes. If you made it through this winter without a detector – great! But don’t push your luck. CO is the number one cause of poisoning deaths in the U.S. The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) reports 200 people are killed each year from accidental CO poisoning, with another 5,000 injured. Chimneys get clogged, appliances malfunction or suffer venting issues, and today’s airtight homes increase the chance of CO accumulation. In short, stuff happens – be prepared!
We love carbon monoxide detectors. Why?
• They notice things we don’t. CO gas is colorless and odorless, undetectably by humans.
• They keep you informed. Carbon monoxide detectors constantly monitor CO levels, alerting you with an audible alarm when gases reach dangerous levels. Many digital models display both current and peak readings of CO over a period of time, with some digital models even registering levels below the alarm threshold.
• They can multitask. While regular carbon monoxide detectors do not serve as smoke detectors, dual smoke/carbon monoxide detectors are available.
• They are reliable. In fact, they are the only safe, reliable way to monitor CO levels in your home.
How they work Though design varies slightly by model, carbon monoxide detectors use a CO gas sensor to identify and measure the concentration of carbon monoxide in your home in parts per million (ppm). When dangerous levels are detected, an electronic pulse is sent to activate the alarm – the higher the levels, the faster the response.
Are your carbon monoxide detectors safely installed?
• One detector: CPSC recommends homes with a single detector locate it near the sleeping area, where it can awaken sleeping occupants if deadly gas levels are detected, placing it high for the most effective use. Have an old detector? Older models had a limited lifespan of two years, while newer models only need to be replaced every five or six years.
• Additional detectors: Locate one detector on every level of your home, including the basement, and in every bedroom for extra protection. One detector near or over every attached garage is also recommended.
• What not to do: Don’t install carbon monoxide detectors directly above or beside combustion appliances, which emit a small amount on startup. Also avoid placing them within 15 feet of heating or cooling appliances, in very humid areas like bathrooms, and in areas where they may be obstructed by furniture or draperies.
Know the signs of CO poisoning so you can react quickly:
• Shortness of breath
• Loss of coordination
• Loss of consciousness