Carbon Monoxide Detectors: Ultimate Guide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a potentially hazardous gas 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. As a result, more than 400 people suffer fatal carbon monoxide poisoning each year, a larger fatality rate compared to any other kind of poisoning.

When the weather cools off, you close up your home for the winter and trust in 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 carbon monoxide in a variety of ways. One of the most successful methods is to add CO detectors around your home. Use this guide to better understand where carbon monoxide comes from and how to take full advantage of your CO alarms.

What produces carbon monoxide in a house?

Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of something burned. Because of this, this gas can appear anytime a fuel source burns, such as natural gas, propane, oil, charcoal, gasoline, woo, and more. Common causes of carbon monoxide in a house consist of:

    • Clogged clothes dryer vent
    • Malfunctioning water heater
    • 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 sense carbon monoxide?

No, smoke detectors do not detect carbon monoxide. In fact, they sound an alarm when they recognize a certain amount of smoke caused by a fire. Possessing reliable smoke detectors decreases the risk of dying in a house fire by around 55 percent.

Smoke detectors come in two primary modes—ionization detectors and photoelectric detectors. Ionization detection is ideal with fast-growing fires that emit large flames, while photoelectric detection is more suited for smoldering, smoky fires. Some newer smoke detectors come with both types of alarms in a solitary unit to boost the chance of recognizing a fire, no matter how it burns.

Unmistakably, smoke detectors and CO alarms are similarly beneficial home safety devices. If you check the ceiling and see an alarm of some kind, you may not recognize whether it’s a smoke detector or a carbon monoxide alarm. The visual contrast is determined by the brand and model you have. Here are a few factors to remember:

    • Quality devices are properly labeled. If not, check for a brand and model number on the back of the detector and find it online. You can also find a manufacture date. If the device is older than 10 years, replace it at the earliest opportunity.
    • Plug-in devices that extract power with an outlet are typically carbon monoxide sensors be labeled saying as much.
    • Some alarms are two-in-one, sensing both smoke and carbon monoxide with a different indicator light for each. Nevertheless, it can be difficult to tell with no label on the front, so checking the manufacturing details on the back is worthwhile.

How many carbon monoxide detectors will I want in my home?

The number of CO alarms you require is dependent on your home’s size, number of floors and bedroom arrangement. Follow these guidelines to provide complete coverage:

    • Install carbon monoxide detectors nearby bedrooms: CO gas leaks are most common at night when furnaces are running constantly to keep your home comfortable. As a result, every bedroom should have a carbon monoxide sensor installed around 15 feet of the door. If multiple bedroom doors are less than 30 feet apart, just one detector is enough.
    • Install detectors on every floor:
      Concentrated carbon monoxide gas can become stuck on a single floor of your home, so make sure you have at least one CO detector on all floors.
    • Install detectors within 10 feet of an attached garage door: A surprising number of people accidentally leave their cars idling in the garage, producing dangerous carbon monoxide buildup, even if the large garage door is wide open. A CO sensor immediately inside the door—and in the room over the garage—alerts you of increased carbon monoxide levels entering your home.
    • Have detectors at the proper height: Carbon monoxide features a weight similar to air, but it’s often carried along with the hot air produced by combustion appliances. Putting in detectors close to the ceiling is a good way to catch this rising air. Models that include digital readouts are best installed at eye level to make them easier to read.
    • Install detectors at least 15 feet from combustion appliances: Certain fuel-burning machines emit a tiny, non-toxic amount of carbon monoxide at startup. This disperses quickly, but if a CO detector is nearby, it could trigger false alarms.
    • Have detectors away from extreme heat and humidity: Carbon monoxide detectors have specified tolerances for heat and humidity. To limit false alarms, don’t install them in bathrooms, in strong sunlight, next to air vents, or close to heat-generating appliances.

How do I test/troubleshoot a carbon monoxide detector?

Depending on the model, the manufacturer might suggest monthly tests and resetting to maintain proper functionality. Also, change out the batteries in battery-powered units twice a year. For hardwired units, replace the backup battery once a year or when the alarm starts chirping, whichever comes first. Then, replace the CO detector outright every 10 years or in line with the manufacturer’s guidelines.

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, knowing that testing uses this general process:

    • Press and hold the Test button. It may take 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 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 stop it.

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

How to reset your carbon monoxide alarm

You only have to reset your unit once the alarm goes off, after a test or after replacing the batteries. A few models automatically reset themselves in under 10 minutes of these events, while others need a manual reset. The instruction manual should note which function is applicable.

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 observe a flash, start the reset again or replace the batteries. If that doesn’t help either, troubleshoot your carbon monoxide alarm with assistance from the manufacturer, or get rid of the faulty detector.

What can I do if a carbon monoxide alarm starts?

Follow these steps to safeguard your home and family:

    • Do not dismiss the alarm. You may not be able to notice unsafe levels of carbon monoxide until it’s too late, so anticipate the alarm is operating correctly when it is triggered.
    • Evacuate all people and pets as quickly as possible. 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 your local fire department and inform them that the carbon monoxide alarm has started.
    • Don’t assume it’s safe to reenter your home when the alarm stops beeping. Opening windows and doors might help air it out, but the source may still be generating carbon monoxide.
    • When emergency responders arrive, they will search your home, assess carbon monoxide levels, try to find the source of the CO leak and determine if it’s safe to go back inside. Depending on the cause, you may need to request repair services to keep the problem from returning.

Seek Support from Winnipeg Supply Service Experts

With the right precautions, there’s no need to worry about carbon monoxide poisoning in your home. Along with installing CO alarms, it’s crucial to maintain your fuel-burning appliances, especially as winter starts.

The team at Winnipeg Supply Service Experts is ready to inspect, clean, diagnose and repair issues with furnaces, boilers, water heaters and other combustion appliances. We know what signs indicate a possible carbon monoxide leak— including 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 Winnipeg Supply Service Experts for more information.

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