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 lead to unconsciousness, brain damage or death. Consequently, more than 400 people die of accidental carbon monoxide exposure each year, a larger fatality rate compared to other types of poisoning.

While the weather gets colder, you insulate your home for the winter and count on heating appliances to remain warm. This is where the risk of carbon monoxide inhalation is highest. The good news is you can defend your family from carbon monoxide in different ways. One of the most efficient methods is to add CO detectors in your home. Use this guide to help you understand where carbon monoxide is produced and how to reap the benefits of your CO detectors.

What causes carbon monoxide in a house?

Carbon monoxide is a byproduct whenever something combusts. As a result, this gas can appear whenever a fuel source is burned, including natural gas, propane, oil, charcoal, gasoline, woo, and more. Frequent causes of carbon monoxide in a house may be:

  • Blocked up clothes dryer vent
  • Broken down water heater
  • Furnace or boiler with a damaged heat exchanger
  • Closed fireplace flue during an active fire
  • 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 recognize a certain level of smoke caused by a fire. Possessing functional smoke detectors reduces the risk of dying in a house fire by about 55 percent.

Smoke detectors are offered in two basic forms—ionization detectors and photoelectric detectors. Ionization detection is ideal with fast-growing fires that emit large flames, while photoelectric detection is more applicable for smoldering, smoky fires. Some newer smoke detectors incorporate both types of alarms in a solitary unit to increase the chance of responding to a fire, despite how it burns.

Unmistakably, smoke detectors and CO alarms are similarly beneficial home safety devices. If you inspect the ceiling and find an alarm of some kind, you might not know whether it’s a smoke detector or a carbon monoxide alarm. The visual contrast is determined by the brand and model you prefer. Here are a few factors to consider:

  • Quality 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 a decade old, replace it right away.
  • Plug-in devices that use power from an outlet are typically carbon monoxide alarms94. The device will be labeled as such.
  • Some alarms are really two-in-one, detecting both smoke and carbon monoxide with a separate indicator light for each. That being said, it can be tough to tell with no 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 require depends on your home’s size, number of floors and the number of bedrooms. Consider these guidelines to guarantee thorough coverage:

  • Place carbon monoxide detectors around wherever people sleep: CO gas leaks are most likely at night when furnaces are running more often to keep your home warm. For that reason, all bedrooms should have a carbon monoxide sensor installed about 15 feet of the door. If a couple of bedroom doors are less than 30 feet apart, a single alarm is enough.
  • Install detectors on each floor:
    Concentrated carbon monoxide buildup can become stuck on a single floor of your home, so make sure you have at least one CO detector on every level.
  • Put in detectors within 10 feet of the internal garage door: A surprising number of people end up leaving their cars running in the garage, resulting in dangerous carbon monoxide buildup, even if the large garage door is fully open. A CO detector immediately inside the door—and in the room above the garage—alerts you of elevated carbon monoxide levels within your home.
  • Have detectors at the appropriate height: Carbon monoxide features a weight similar to air, but it’s commonly pushed up by the hot air produced by combustion appliances. Installing detectors near the ceiling is best to catch this rising air. Models that include digital readouts are best installed at eye level to keep them easy to read.
  • Put in detectors at least 15 feet from combustion appliances: Some fuel-burning machines give off a tiny, non-toxic amount of carbon monoxide when they start. This dissipates quickly, but in situations where a CO detector is nearby, it could give off false alarms.
  • Have detectors away from extreme heat and humidity: Carbon monoxide detectors have specific 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 may recommend testing once a month and resetting to maintain proper functionality. Also, replace the batteries in battery-powered units twice a year. For hardwired units, replace the backup battery annually or when the alarm is chirping, whichever comes first. Then, replace the CO detector completely every 10 years or in line with the manufacturer’s instructions.

How to test your carbon monoxide alarm

You only need a minute to test your CO sensor. Review the instruction manual for directions individual to your unit, with the knowledge that testing practices 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 operating correctly.
  • Release the Test button and wait for two short beeps, a flash or both. If the device keeps beeping when you release the button, press and hold it again for five seconds to quiet it.

Change the batteries if the unit won't work as expected during 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 once the alarm goes off, after a test or after replacing the batteries. Certain models automatically reset themselves within 10 minutes of these events, while other alarms require a manual reset. The instruction manual will 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 get a beep or see a flash, attempt the reset again or replace the batteries. If it’s still not working, troubleshoot your carbon monoxide alarm with assistance from the manufacturer, or replace the detector.

What should I do if a carbon monoxide alarm goes off?

Listen to these steps to protect your home and family:

  • Do not ignore the alarm. You might not be able to detect dangerous levels of carbon monoxide until it’s too late, so anticipate the alarm is operating correctly when it starts.
  • Evacuate all people and pets immediately. If possible, 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 report that the carbon monoxide alarm has triggered.
  • Don't assume it’s safe to reenter your home when the alarm is no longer beeping. Opening windows and doors may help air it out, but the root cause may still be creating carbon monoxide.
  • When emergency responders arrive, they will go into your home, assess carbon monoxide levels, look for the source of the CO leak and figure out if it’s safe to come back inside. Depending on the cause, you might need to request repair services to prevent the problem from reappearing.

Find Support from Stallion Heating Plumbing Air Conditioning

With the proper precautions, there’s no need to worry about carbon monoxide exposure in your home. Besides installing CO alarms, it’s crucial to maintain your fuel-burning appliances, particularly as winter arrives.

The team at Stallion Heating Plumbing Air Conditioning is qualified to inspect, clean, diagnose and repair malfunctions with furnaces, boilers, water heaters and other combustion appliances. We recognize which 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 prevent them.

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

chat now widget box