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, but it can cause unconsciousness, brain damage or death. As a result, more than 400 people die of accidental carbon monoxide influence 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 where the risk of carbon monoxide exposure is highest. The good news is you can defend your family from carbon monoxide in several ways. One of the most successful methods is to install CO detectors in your home. Use this guide to help you understand where carbon monoxide is produced and how to make the most of your CO alarms.
Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of incomplete combustion. Therefore, this gas is produced anytime a fuel source is ignited, like natural gas, propane, oil, charcoal, gasoline, woo, and more. Frequent causes of carbon monoxide in a house include:
No, smoke detectors do not detect carbon monoxide. Instead, they begin an alarm when they sense a certain level of smoke caused by a fire. Having reliable 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 is ideal with fast-growing fires that produce large flames, while photoelectric detection is more effective with smoldering, smoky fires. Some newer smoke detectors incorporate 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 similarly important 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 depends on the brand and model you have. Here are some factors to remember:
The number of CO alarms you should have depends on your home’s size, the number of stories and bedroom arrangement. Follow these guidelines to guarantee thorough coverage:
Depending on the model, the manufacturer may suggest testing once a month and resetting to ensure proper functionality. Also, change out 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 guidelines.
It only takes a minute to test your CO detector. Check the instruction manual for directions individual to your unit, knowing that testing follows this general procedure:
Replace 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 changing 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 support from the manufacturer, or get rid of the faulty detector.
Follow these steps to protect your home and family:
With the right 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 Neal Harris Service Experts is qualified to inspect, clean, diagnose and repair problems with furnaces, boilers, water heaters and other combustion appliances. We know what signs suggest a possible carbon monoxide leak— like excessive soot, rusted flue pipes and a yellow, flickering burner flame—along with the necessary repairs to prevent them.
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