Carbon monoxide (CO) is one of the most hazardous gases found in the home. Dubbed the “silent killer,” CO gas is colorless, odorless, tasteless and non-irritating, yet it can cause unconsciousness, brain damage or death. As a result, more than 400 people die of accidental carbon monoxide exposure each year, a higher fatality rate than any other type of poisoning.
As the weather cools off, you close up your home for the winter and rely on heating appliances to stay warm. This is when the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning is highest. The good news is you can protect your family from carbon monoxide in several ways. One of the most effective methods is to install CO detectors in your home. Use this guide to help you understand where carbon monoxide comes from and how to make the most of your CO alarms.
Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of incomplete combustion. As a result, this gas is produced whenever a fuel source burns, including natural gas, propane, oil, charcoal, gasoline, woo, and more. Common causes of carbon monoxide in a house include:
No, smoke detectors do not detect carbon monoxide. Instead, they sound an alarm when they sense a certain level of smoke caused by a fire. Having functional smoke detectors reduces the risk of dying in a house fire by nearly 55 percent.
Smoke detectors come in two primary forms—ionization detectors and photoelectric detectors. Ionization detection works best with fast-moving fires that produce large flames, while photoelectric detection is more effective with smoldering, smoky fires. Some newer smoke detectors come with both types of alarms in a single unit to increase the chance of sensing a fire, no matter how it burns.
Clearly, smoke detectors and CO alarms are equally important home safety devices. If you look up at the ceiling and see an alarm of some kind, you may not know whether it’s a smoke detector or a carbon monoxide alarm. The visual difference depends on the brand and model you have. Here are some factors to keep in mind:
The number of CO alarms you need depends on your home’s size, number of floors and bedroom arrangement. Follow these guidelines to ensure thorough coverage:
Depending on the model, the manufacturer may recommend monthly testing and resetting to ensure proper functionality. Also, replace the batteries in battery-powered units every six months. For hardwired units, replace the backup battery once a year or when the alarm starts chirping, whichever comes first. Then, replace the CO detector entirely every 10 years or according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.
It only takes a minute to test your CO detector. Check the instruction manual for directions specific to your unit, knowing that testing follows this general procedure:
Change the batteries if the unit fails to perform as expected during the test. If replacement batteries don’t make a difference, replace the detector immediately.
You only need to reset your unit when the alarm goes off, after testing the device or after replacing the batteries. Some models automatically reset themselves within 10 minutes of these events, while others require a manual reset. The instruction manual will note which function applies.
Follow these steps to reset your CO detector manually:
If you don’t hear a beep or see 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 replace the detector.
Follow these steps to protect your home and family:
With the proper precautions, there’s no need to fear carbon monoxide exposure in your home. In addition to installing CO alarms, it’s important to maintain your fuel-burning appliances, especially as winter gets underway.
The team at Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing is qualified to inspect, clean, diagnose and repair problems with furnaces, boilers, water heaters and other combustion appliances. We know what signs indicate a possible carbon monoxide leak— such as excessive 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 Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing for more information.
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