Carbon Monoxide Detectors: Ultimate Guide

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

As the weather cools down, you close up your home for the winter and rely on heating appliances to keep warm. These situations are when the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning is highest. The good news is you can defend your family from a gas leak in different ways. One of the most effective methods is to put in CO detectors throughout your home. Check out this guide to help you understand where carbon monoxide can appear from and how to take full advantage of your CO sensors.

What generates carbon monoxide in a house?

Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of incomplete combustion. As a result, this gas is produced when a fuel source is burned, including natural gas, propane, oil, charcoal, gasoline, woo, and more. Frequent causes of carbon monoxide in a house consist of:

  • Blocked up clothes dryer vent
  • Faulty water heater
  • Furnace or boiler with a damaged heat exchanger
  • Closed fireplace flue while a fire is lit
  • Improperly vented gas or wood stove
  • Vehicle idling 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. Instead, they start an alarm when they detect a certain amount of smoke caused by a fire. Having dependable smoke detectors reduces the risk of dying in a house fire by about 55 percent.

Smoke detectors come in two basic modes—ionization detectors and photoelectric detectors. Ionization detection is ideal with quick-moving fires that produce large flames, while photoelectric detection is more effective with smoldering, smoky fires. The newest smoke detectors incorporate both types of alarms in a solitary unit to maximize the chance of responding to a fire, despite how it burns.

Unmistakably, smoke detectors and CO alarms are equally important home safety devices. If you check the ceiling and find an alarm of some kind, you may not recognize whether it’s a smoke detector or a carbon monoxide alarm. The visual discrepancy depends on the brand and model you want. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Most devices are properly labeled. If not, check for 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 right away.
  • Plug-in devices that use power with an outlet are typically carbon monoxide alarms]]94. The device {should be labeled saying as much.
  • Some alarms will be two-in-one, detecting both smoke and carbon monoxide with an indicator light for each. Nevertheless, it can be hard to tell without a label on the front, so checking the manufacturing details on the back is your best bet.

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

The number of CO alarms you should have depends on your home’s size, how many floors it has and bedroom arrangement. Use these guidelines to provide complete coverage:

  • Place carbon monoxide detectors near bedrooms: CO gas exposure is most prevalent at night when furnaces must run constantly to keep your home heated. Therefore, every bedroom should have a carbon monoxide sensor installed around 15 feet of the door. If two bedroom doors are less than 30 feet apart, just one detector is enough.
  • Add detectors on every floor: Dense carbon monoxide buildup can become caught 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 the internal garage door: A lot of people accidentally leave their cars running in the garage, resulting in dangerous carbon monoxide buildup, even when the large garage door is completely open. A CO alarm just inside the door—and in the room up above the garage—alerts you of heightened carbon monoxide levels inside your home.
  • Put in detectors at the appropriate height: Carbon monoxide features a weight similar to air, but it’s commonly carried upward in the hot air produced by combustion appliances. Having detectors close to the ceiling is ideal to catch this rising air. Models that come with digital readouts are best placed at eye level to make them easier to read.
  • Install detectors about 15 feet from combustion appliances: Some fuel-burning machines emit a tiny, harmless amount of carbon monoxide as they first start running. This dissipates quickly, but in situations where a CO detector is positioned too close, it could give off false alarms.
  • Install detectors away from high heat and humidity: Carbon monoxide detectors have specific tolerances for heat and humidity. To limit false alarms, try not to install them in bathrooms, in direct sunlight, next to air vents, or close to heat-generating appliances.

How do I test/troubleshoot a carbon monoxide detector?

Depending on the specific unit, the manufacturer might encourage monthly tests and resetting to ensure proper functionality. Also, change out the batteries in battery-powered units after 6 months. For hardwired units, replace the backup battery every year or when the alarm is chirping, whichever happens first. Then, replace the CO detector completely every 10 years or according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

How to test your carbon monoxide alarm

All it takes is a minute to test your CO sensor. Review the instruction manual for directions specific to your unit, understanding that testing follows this general procedure:

  • Press and hold the Test button. It will sometimes need 5 to 20 seconds for the alarm to go off.
  • Loud beeping signifies the detector is operating correctly.
  • Let go of the Test button and wait for two quick beeps, a flash or both. If the device goes on beeping when you let go of the button, press and hold it again for five seconds to stop it.

Swap out the batteries if the unit fails to perform as expected after the test. If replacement batteries don’t help, replace the detector immediately.

How to reset your carbon monoxide alarm

You’re only required to reset your unit when the alarm goes off, after a test or after swapping the batteries. Certain models automatically reset themselves in under 10 minutes of these events, while others need a manual reset. The instruction manual should note which function you should use.

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 hear a beep or observe a flash, try the reset again or replace the batteries. If it’s still not working, troubleshoot your carbon monoxide alarm with help from the manufacturer, or get rid of the faulty detector.

What should I do if a carbon monoxide alarm starts?

Listen to these steps to protect your home and family:

  • Do not ignore the alarm. You won’t always be able to identify hazardous levels of carbon monoxide until it’s too late, so expect the alarm is functioning correctly when it is triggered.
  • Evacuate all people and pets immediately. If you’re able to, open windows and doors on your way out to try and thin out the concentration of CO gas.
  • Call 911 or the local fire department and inform them that the carbon monoxide alarm has started.
  • Do not assume it’s safe to reenter your home when the alarm stops beeping. Opening windows and doors can help air it out, but the root cause may still be producing carbon monoxide.
  • When emergency responders arrive, they will enter your home, evaluate carbon monoxide levels, check for the source of the CO leak and figure out if it’s safe to return. Depending on the cause, you might need to schedule repair services to stop the problem from returning.

Get Support from Mid-State Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing

With the proper precautions, there’s no need to fear carbon monoxide poisoning in your home. Besides installing CO alarms, it’s important to maintain your fuel-burning appliances, namely as winter arrives.

The team at Mid-State Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing is qualified to inspect, clean, diagnose and repair problems with furnaces, boilers, water heaters and other combustion appliances. We understand what signs suggest a potential carbon monoxide leak— like excessive soot, rusted flue pipes and a yellow, flickering burner flame—along with the necessary repairs to resolve them.

Do you still have questions or concerns about CO exposure? Is it time to schedule annual heating services? Contact Mid-State Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing for more information.

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