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 lead to 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 count on heating appliances to stay warm. These situations are 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 around 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. Therefore, this gas is produced when a fuel source burns, such as 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 start 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 about 55 percent.
Smoke detectors come in two basic forms—ionization detectors and photoelectric detectors. Ionization detection works best with fast-growing fires that produce large flames, while photoelectric detectors are 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 inspect the ceiling and see an alarm of some kind, you won’t always know whether it’s a smoke detector or a carbon monoxide alarm. The visual difference is determined by the brand and model you prefer. Here are some factors to consider:
The number of CO alarms you should have depends on your home’s size, how many floors it has and bedroom arrangement. Consider these guidelines to ensure thorough coverage:
Depending on the model, the manufacturer may suggest testing once a month 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 starts first. Then, replace the CO detector entirely every 10 years or according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
It only takes a minute to test your CO detector. Review the instruction manual for directions unique to your unit, knowing that testing follows this general procedure:
Change the batteries if the unit won’t work as expected during the test. If replacement batteries don’t make a difference, replace the detector immediately.
You only need to reset your unit once the alarm goes off, after testing the device or after swapping 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, start 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.
Listen to 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 starts.
The team at Broad Ripple Service Experts is qualified to inspect, clean, diagnose and repair problems with furnaces, boilers, water heaters and other combustion appliances. We know what signs indicate a likely carbon monoxide leak— such as excessive soot, rusted flue pipes and a yellow, flickering burner flame—along with the necessary repairs to avoid them.
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