Carbon Monoxide Detectors: Ultimate Guide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a common risk found in the home. Nicknamed the “silent killer,” CO gas is colorless, odorless, tasteless and non-irritating, however it can cause unconsciousness, brain damage or death. Because of this, more than 400 people die as a result of carbon monoxide influence each year, a higher fatality rate versus other types of poisoning.

While the weather cools off, you seal your home for the winter and count on heating appliances to keep warm. This is when the risk of carbon monoxide inhalation is highest. Fortunately you can protect your family from carbon monoxide in several ways. One of the most efficient methods is to install CO detectors around your home. Use this guide to better understand where carbon monoxide comes from and how to reap the benefits of your CO detectors.

What generates carbon monoxide in a house?

Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of something burned. As a result, this gas is generated whenever a fuel source is ignited, such as natural gas, propane, oil, charcoal, gasoline, woo, and more. Frequent causes of carbon monoxide in a house consist of:

  • Clogged clothes dryer vent
  • Broken down water heater
  • Furnace or boiler with a damaged heat exchanger
  • Closed fireplace flue with a lit fire
  • Improperly vented gas or wood stove
  • Vehicle running in the garage
  • Portable generator, grill, power tool or lawn equipment operating in the garage

Do smoke detectors recognize carbon monoxide?

No, smoke detectors do not detect carbon monoxide. Alternatively, they begin an alarm when they detect a certain level of smoke generated by a fire. Possessing reliable smoke detectors lowers the risk of dying in a house fire by about 55 percent.

Smoke detectors come in two basic types—ionization detectors and photoelectric detectors. Ionization detection works best with fast-growing fires that produce large flames, while photoelectric detectors are more effective with smoldering, smoky fires. The newest smoke detectors come with both types of alarms in a solitary unit to increase the chance of recognizing a fire, no matter how it burns.

Obviously, smoke detectors and CO alarms are similarly beneficial home safety devices. If you inspect the ceiling and see an alarm of some kind, you might not recognize whether it’s a smoke detector or a carbon monoxide alarm. The visual discrepancy depends on the brand and model you have. Here are a few factors to remember:

  • Some devices are properly labeled. If not, try to find a brand and model number on the back of the detector and find it online. You should also find a manufacture date. If the device is more than a decade old, replace it at the earliest opportunity.
  • Plug-in devices that draw power through an outlet are generally carbon monoxide sensors94. The device is supposed to be labeled as such.
  • Some alarms are two-in-one, offering protection against both smoke and carbon monoxide with a separate indicator light for each. Nevertheless, it can be difficult to tell without a label on the front, so reviewing the manufacturing details on the back is smart.

How many carbon monoxide detectors do I need in my home?

The number of CO alarms you require depends on your home’s size, the number of stories and the number of bedrooms. Consider these guidelines to guarantee total coverage:

  • Add carbon monoxide detectors around bedrooms: CO gas poisoning is most likely at night when furnaces must run frequently to keep your home comfortable. For that reason, each bedroom should have a carbon monoxide detector installed around 15 feet of the door. If a couple of bedroom doors are less than 30 feet apart, just one detector is enough.
  • Add detectors on all floors:
    Dense carbon monoxide buildup can become trapped on a single floor of your home, so do your best to have at least one CO detector on each floor.
  • Have detectors within 10 feet of your internal garage door: Many people unsafely leave their cars idling in the garage, leading to dangerous carbon monoxide buildup, even if the large garage door is wide open. A CO alarm immediately inside the door—and in the room up above the garage—alerts you of increased carbon monoxide levels within your home.
  • Put in detectors at the appropriate height: Carbon monoxide weighs about the same as air, but it’s frequently pushed up by the hot air released by combustion appliances. Having detectors near the ceiling is best to catch this rising air. Models with digital readouts are best installed at eye level to make sure they're easy to read.
  • Put in detectors about 15 feet from combustion appliances: A few fuel-burning machines produce a tiny, non-toxic amount of carbon monoxide at startup. This disperses quickly, but if a CO detector is installed right next to it, it could give off false alarms.
  • Install detectors away from excess heat and humidity: Carbon monoxide detectors have specific tolerances for heat and humidity. To reduce false alarms, avoid installing them in bathrooms, in harsh sunlight, around air vents, or close to heat-generating appliances.

How do I test/troubleshoot a carbon monoxide detector?

Depending on the specific unit, the manufacturer will sometimes encourage monthly tests and resetting to ensure proper functionality. Also, swap out the batteries in battery-powered units twice a year. For hardwired units, replace the backup battery annually or when the alarm is chirping, whichever happens first. Then, replace the CO detector outright every 10 years or in line with the manufacturer’s recommendations.

How to test your carbon monoxide alarm

It only takes a minute to test your CO alarm. Review the instruction manual for directions specific to your unit, knowing that testing follows this general process:

  • Press and hold the Test button. It will sometimes need 5 to 20 seconds for the alarm to start.
  • Loud beeping means the detector is working correctly.
  • Let go of the Test button and wait for two short beeps, a flash or both. If the device keeps beeping when you let go of the button, press and hold it again for five seconds to quiet it.

Replace the batteries if the unit won't work as expected during the test. If replacement batteries don’t change anything, replace the detector immediately.

How to reset your carbon monoxide alarm

You only need to reset your unit when the alarm goes off, after a test or after changing the batteries. Some models automatically reset themselves in under 10 minutes of these events, while others need a manual reset. The instruction manual can note which function applies.

Follow these steps to reset your CO detector manually:

  • Press and hold the Reset button for 5 to 10 seconds.
  • Release the button and listen for a beep, a flash or both.

If you don’t notice a beep or observe a flash, start the reset again or replace the batteries. If that doesn't help either, troubleshoot your carbon monoxide alarm with support from the manufacturer, or install a new detector.

What do I do if a carbon monoxide alarm starts?

Listen to these steps to take care of your home and family:

  • Do not dismiss the alarm. You won't always be able to detect unsafe levels of carbon monoxide until it’s too late, so expect the alarm is functioning properly when it goes off.
  • Evacuate all people and pets as quickly as possible. If possible, open windows and doors on your way out to attempt to dilute the concentration of CO gas.
  • Call 911 or your local fire department and explain that the carbon monoxide alarm has gone off.
  • Do not assume it’s safe to reenter your home when the alarm is no longer beeping. Opening windows and doors might help air it out, but the source might still be generating carbon monoxide.
  • When emergency responders come, they will go into your home, assess carbon monoxide levels, try to find the source of the CO leak and figure out if it’s safe to come back inside. Depending on the cause, you will sometimes need to schedule repair services to keep the problem from recurring.

Find Support from Falso Service Experts

With the proper precautions, there’s no need to be afraid of carbon monoxide inhalation in your home. Along with installing CO alarms, it’s crucial to maintain your fuel-burning appliances, especially as winter starts.

The team at Falso Service Experts is ready to inspect, clean, diagnose and repair malfunctions with furnaces, boilers, water heaters and other combustion appliances. We know what signs suggest a possible carbon monoxide leak— like increased soot, rusted flue pipes and a yellow, flickering burner flame—along with the necessary repairs to prevent them.

Do you still have questions or concerns about CO exposure? Is it time to schedule annual heating services? Contact Falso Service Experts for more information.

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