If you are wondering if your home needs carbon monoxide detectors, the answer is pretty straight-forward. Anytime that you burn solid or liquid fuel for cooking, heating, or any other use, you absolutely need a CO detector installed in your home. And since most homes have an attached garage or other gas-powered equipment, likely every home should have a detector, whether they have an appliance that burns fuel or not.
What is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, basically undetectable gas that is dangerous in any amount. When you breathe in CO2, it binds with the hemoglobin of red blood cells, and then it proceeds to take the place of oxygen. Breathing it in will lead to oxygen starvation of the blood cells, which is technically called hypoxia, and it is fatal.
Facts About Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Carbon monoxide is present in the air that you breathe all around. But it is dangerous at high levels, such as when you are burning fuel that emits it, which can make it fatal. It is a byproduct created from the combustion of hydrocarbon fuels. Those hydrocarbon fuels include propane, coal, gasoline, and natural gas, just to name a few.
Combustion equipment and appliances that are used around the home create CO gas regardless of how energy efficient they are. Carbon monoxide is measured in something called “parts per minute”. The higher the concentration of CO is, the more symptoms will present themselves.
- Between 0.5-5 ppm is a standard range of home exposure due to combustion appliances
- Anything below 70 ppm for more than six to eight hours can lead to dizziness and headaches. If a person has a pre existing heart condition, they can also experience chest pains.
- 100 ppm for more than two hours can lead to fatigue, nausea, and headaches
- 150 - 200 ppm for any long term can be fatal
What are Appliances That Burn Fuel?
Most appliances that burn fuel, when tested properly, maintained, and installed correctly, are generally not dangerous. If, however, the exhaust fan or any part of the functioning appliance is clogged, it can lead to a dangerous release of CO gas into the home. Common things like pest nests or even heavy snowfall can block chimneys and vents, and lead to CO gas exposure. Examples of combustion appliances include:
- Any wood-burning device, such as heat stoves, wood stoves, fireplaces, parlor stoves or wood-pellet stoves
- Natural, propane or oil appliances, including furnaces, boilers, ranges and cooktops, certain refrigerators, space heaters, fireplaces, and hot water heaters
- Diesel or gas fuel equipment like generators, which should always be outdoors
- Agricultural, bio, or any other heating stoves that burn fuel.
The Recommended Number of CO Detectors
CO detectors have the same recommendations as fire detectors. At a minimum, every house should have at least one detector located on each floor, one located near sleeping areas, and if you have a basement, one in the basement. If there is a common hallway where rooms are located, then hallways should also have a detector. If you have forced air heat, however, the leak can go individually to each room. So, it is appropriate to have a CO detector for every room where people will be sleeping. Other areas such as sunrooms, attics, or even closed-in porches that have a fuel-burning appliance should have a CO detector. And the same is true for outbuildings that have appliances that burn fuel.
What are the Types of CO Detectors?
Carbon monoxide detectors can be both plugged in and hard-wired. There are also CO detectors that combine both smoke detection along with CO monitoring. Hard-wired models are connected to your home’s overall electrical wiring system, and they should also have batteries for back-up in case the electricity goes out. Most hard-wired CO monitors are connected so that if one is triggered, it triggers them all to alert you of exposure. Some plug-in models also have interconnectivity; they do so wirelessly.
Standard carbon monoxide detectors have lights to indicate various alarms while others give a digital readout. The types with a digital display should indicate CO levels at all times; if not, then it is not working properly. If you notice that the display continues to inch up, that is an indication that there might be a leak in your combustion appliances. Levels that are high, and can lead to symptoms, are not always detectable via the alarm.
Installation and Maintenance Tips
Anyone can install a plug-in carbon monoxide detector simply by plugging it in. Just make sure to put batteries in it frequently. And also, ensure that it isn’t covered by any curtains, furniture, or other obstacles that can stop it from a correct reading. The electrical models, however, take a little more expertise to install. And since they are such an integral part of keeping everyone safe, it might be better to allow a professional to install them via their instructions and specifications. Since CO detectors work differently, it is important to read the manufacturer's instructions to make sure that they are working properly.
It is essential that you also clean CO detectors using a vacuum monthly and that you replace the batteries every six months. Carbon monoxide detectors do not last forever, so make sure to write down the purchase date before it is installed. That way, you will know when it is time to replace it.
At Carney & Son, we value our customers greatly and want to ensure that you are safe at home. Our team of professionals is expert at both installing and maintaining your CO detector. That way, you know for sure that it is working properly! Contact us to discuss all of your HVAC needs! Don't forget our carbon monoxide detectors also detect natural gas too. We install them and warranty CO detectors for 5 years and replace them at no cost if needed!