Carbon Monoxide Detectors: Ultimate Guide

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

As the weather cools down, you seal your home for the winter and rely on heating appliances to keep warm. This is when the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning is highest. Fortunately you can protect your family from a gas leak in several ways. One of the most effective methods is to put in CO detectors in your home. Try this guide to better understand where carbon monoxide can appear from and how to make the most of your CO sensors.

What causes carbon monoxide in a house?

Carbon monoxide is a byproduct whenever something combusts. Because of this, this gas can appear anytime a fuel source is ignited, such as natural gas, propane, oil, charcoal, gasoline, woo, and more. Prevalent causes of carbon monoxide in a house may be:

  • Blocked up clothes dryer vent
  • Malfunctioning water heater
  • Furnace or boiler with a cracked heat exchanger
  • Closed fireplace flue while a fire is lit
  • Poorly vented gas or wood stove
  • Vehicle sitting in the garage
  • Portable generator, grill, power tool or lawn equipment operating in the garage

Do smoke detectors sense carbon monoxide?

No, smoke detectors do not detect carbon monoxide. In fact, they begin an alarm when they sense a certain amount of smoke caused by a fire. Installing dependable smoke detectors reduces the risk of dying in a house fire by around 55 percent.

Smoke detectors come in two basic forms—ionization detectors and photoelectric detectors. Ionization detection functions well with quick-moving fires that produce large flames, while photoelectric detectors are more effective with smoldering, smoky fires. Some newer smoke detectors include both forms of alarms in a solitary unit to boost the chance of responding to a fire, no matter how it burns.

Obviously, smoke detectors and CO alarms are equally important home safety devices. If you inspect the ceiling and see an alarm of some kind, you won't always recognize whether it’s a smoke detector or a carbon monoxide alarm. The visual difference depends on the brand and model you prefer. Here are some factors to keep in mind:

  • Most devices are properly labeled. If not, look for a brand and model number on the back of the detector and look it up online. You can also find a manufacture date. If the device is more than 10 years old, replace it as soon as possible.
  • Plug-in devices that draw power through an outlet are generally carbon monoxide alarms94. The device should be labeled so.
  • Some alarms will be two-in-one, sensing both smoke and carbon monoxide with a different indicator light for each. Still, it can be hard to tell without a label on the front, so checking 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 should have is dependent on your home’s size, the number of stories and the number of bedrooms. Follow these guidelines to provide thorough coverage:

  • Install carbon monoxide detectors near wherever people sleep: CO gas poisoning is most prevalent at night when furnaces are running frequently to keep your home comfortable. As a result, all bedrooms should have a carbon monoxide sensor installed about 15 feet of the door. If two bedroom doors are less than 30 feet apart, one detector is enough.
  • Add detectors on every floor:
    Dangerous carbon monoxide buildup can become stuck on a single floor of your home, so try to have at least one CO detector on all floors.
  • Install detectors within 10 feet of your internal garage door: A surprising number of people accidentally leave their cars on in the garage, resulting in dangerous carbon monoxide gas, even if the large garage door is completely open. A CO detector right inside the door—and in the room over the garage—alerts you of increased carbon monoxide levels entering your home.
  • Install detectors at the proper height: Carbon monoxide weighs about the same as air, but it’s frequently pushed up by the hot air produced by combustion appliances. Installing detectors up against the ceiling is ideal to catch this rising air. Models that come with digital readouts are best located at eye level to keep them easy to read.
  • Add detectors around 15 feet from combustion appliances: Some fuel-burning machines produce 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 may trigger false alarms.
  • Install detectors away from high heat and humidity: Carbon monoxide detectors have specific tolerances for heat and humidity. To minimize false alarms, try not to install them in bathrooms, in harsh sunlight, next to air vents, or close to heat-generating appliances.

How do I test/troubleshoot a carbon monoxide detector?

Depending on the design, the manufacturer may recommend monthly testing and resetting to sustain proper functionality. Also, swap out the batteries in battery-powered units every six months. For hardwired units, replace the backup battery every year or when the alarm starts chirping, whichever comes first. Then, replace the CO detector entirely after 10 years or in line with the manufacturer’s recommendations.

How to test your carbon monoxide alarm

All it takes is a minute to test your CO detector. Read the instruction manual for directions individual to your unit, with the knowledge that testing practices this general procedure:

  • Press and hold the Test button. It might take 5 to 20 seconds for the alarm to start.
  • Loud beeping signifies the detector is operating correctly.
  • Release the Test button and wait for two fast beeps, a flash or both. If the device continues beeping when you release the button, press and hold it again for five seconds to silence it.

Replace the batteries if the unit isn't performing as expected for the test. If replacement batteries don’t change anything, replace the detector entirely.

How to reset your carbon monoxide alarm

You're only required to reset your unit when the alarm goes off, after running a test or after changing the batteries. Certain models automatically reset themselves in under 10 minutes of these events, while others require a manual reset. The instruction manual will note which function applies.

Carry out these steps to reset your CO detector manually:

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

If you don’t hear a beep or see a flash, attempt the reset again or replace the batteries. If that doesn't help either, troubleshoot your carbon monoxide alarm with assistance from the manufacturer, or replace the detector.

What can I do if a carbon monoxide alarm starts?

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

  • Do not disregard the alarm. You may not be able to recognize dangerous levels of carbon monoxide until it’s too late, so assume the alarm is operating correctly when it is triggered.
  • Evacuate all people and pets as quickly as possible. If possible, open windows and doors on your way out to attempt to weaken the concentration of CO gas.
  • Call 911 or a local fire department and report that the carbon monoxide alarm has gone off.
  • Do not assume it’s safe to reenter your home when the alarm stops beeping. Opening windows and doors may help air it out, but the source may still be producing carbon monoxide.
  • When emergency responders show up, they will go into your home, measure carbon monoxide levels, look for the source of the CO leak and establish if it’s safe to go back inside. Depending on the cause, you will sometimes need to arrange repair services to stop the problem from reappearing.

Seek Support from Freschi Service Experts

With the appropriate precautions, there’s no need to be afraid of carbon monoxide exposure in your home. Along with installing CO alarms, it’s important to maintain your fuel-burning appliances, particularly as winter gets underway.

The team at Freschi Service Experts is ready to inspect, clean, diagnose and repair malfunctions with furnaces, boilers, water heaters and other combustion appliances. We know what signs indicate a potential carbon monoxide leak— such as increased 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 Freschi Service Experts for more information.

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