Carbon Monoxide Detector FAQs

Carbon Monoxide Detector

What is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, toxic gas that is created when a gas appliance is not properly burning fuel.  Carbon monoxide can come from any of the following common household appliances:

  • Furnace
  • Water heater
  • Fireplace
  • Blocked chimneys
  • Gas dryers
  • Charcoal grill
  • Car exhaust
  • Space heaters
  • Generators
  • Gas stoves

When properly used and properly functioning, none of these devices would produce carbon monoxide.  However, on the occasion that they crack, are dirty, vented improperly, have insufficient combustion air or are used incorrectly, etc. the threat of carbon monoxide exists.

Why Do I Need a Carbon Monoxide Detector?

Because carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless, you would likely never notice it in your home or business. As it fills your home, it slowly replaces oxygen so that you are eventually unable to breathe. Left undetected, it can prove to be deadly. A detector protects you and your loved ones from preventable symptoms or even death. Even those individuals fortunate enough to escape death can suffer long-term effects from carbon monoxide. The effects include, but are not limited to, the following symptoms, which vary in severity based on the amount and length of exposure:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Mental confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Loss of muscular coordination
  • Brain damage
  • Cardiac complications
  • Death 

Where Should the Detectors be Installed?

It is a consistent recommendation across the board that most homes need more than one detector to monitor the entire structure. If you live in a two-story home, regardless of the square footage, you should install at least one carbon monoxide detector on each level. If one of the levels of your home is a basement install the detector at the top of the basement stairs. Additionally, placing a detector in or near each sleeping area is recommended. When you install the detectors, do so at least 15 to 20 feet away from the furnace or any other fuel burning heat source and at least 10 feet away from any source of humidity like a bathroom or a dishwasher.

Do They Require Any Maintenance?

Most carbon monoxide detectors require the same amount of maintenance as a smoke detector. That simply means ensuring they have a working battery at all times. Even if you choose to have a detector that is connected to the electrical system, it is important to have battery backup in case of an extended power outage. Also, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for maintenance. Some recommend regular testing and others have an average lifetime of only a few years before they need to be replaced.

What Should I Do if the Alarm Sounds?

Get you and your family to a source of fresh air immediately. Don’t question whether or not it is a false alarm. After your family is safe, you might choose to go back inside and open the doors and windows to allow the home to air out. Once you know everyone is safe, it is important to find the source of the carbon monoxide and make the necessary repairs to ensure your family’s continued safety.

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