What is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a potentially deadly gas that is created anytime a fuel such as gasoline, oil, wood, or propane is burned. It is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in North America. CO can be created by many common household appliances. It is odorless, tasteless and invisible. The only way to know if you are being poisoned is to install a carbon monoxide detector on every level of your home. Installing a Carbon Monoxide detector is not only smart, but as of 2011, it may be required in the state you live in.
Getting a carbon monoxide detector for your home can give you peace of mind. They automatically alert you and your family with a beeping alarm when it senses CO. CO alarms will sound before you have any CO poisoning symptoms. More accurate alarms will sound earlier and protect your family better.
What to Look For In A Carbon Monoxide Detector
When you look for a CO detector, be sure it has these features:
- Electrochemical sensor. This ensures your alarm is more stable during humidity and temperature changes and resists false readings caused by common household chemicals.
- End-of-life warnings. These alert you when it’s time to replace the alarm. Kidde is the only major manufacturer who tests its CO alarms for long-term reliability, and whose alarms have a built-in end-of-life warning.
- UL listed. CO alarms should meet the strict third party standards set by Underwriters Laboratories (UL). A UL listed carbon monoxide detector will have a label on its package.
Other features to consider are:
- Accuracy: Look for a statement on the package about how accurate the alarm is. If the CO alarm is UL listed, the statement is verified by UL.
- Back-lit Digital Display: A digital screen is easy to read, and updates every 15 seconds. A back-lit display allows you to see the CO level in the dark.
- Peak-Level Memory: This feature records the highest level of CO present. Knowing the CO level in the home can help emergency responders find out what caused the the problem, and fix it.
- Plug-in with Battery Backup: Easy to plug into any electrical socket, these alarms include a 9V battery for protection during short-term power outages. Battery-powered units offer 24-hour CO monitoring even when the power goes out. The alarm can also be placed on a shelf or wall or moved from room-to-room. You’ll have to change the batteries occasionally, but the alarm will tell you when they’re low.
- Combination Smoke/CO Alarm: These units combine your smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector into one. This means you’ll have one less battery to change every year. You’ll have CO protection in every room you have fire protection.
- Voice Warning: A voice clearly tells you about the threat to your home. Most smoke/CO combo alarms have this.
Once you choose which carbon monoxide detector you want, buy enough of them to cover each floor of your home. It’s a good idea to place an alarm in every sleeping area. Since carbon monoxide doesn’t rise like smoke, you can install them at any height. Make sure CO alarms are at least 15 feet away from cooking or heating appliances to prevent false alarms.
If the CO alarm in your home sounds, don’t ignore it. Get your family and pets out of your house. If no one has symptoms of poisoning, call the fire department or a qualified technician with your cell phone or by using a neighbor’s phone. If you can’t leave your home to call for help, open all the doors and windows, and turn off all possible sources while you are waiting for assistance to arrive. Symptoms of CO poisoning include headaches, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and flu-like symptoms. If you have any of these symptoms, get to an area where you can breathe as much fresh air as possible.
You should test your carbon monoxide detector every month to make sure it’s working. You should also replace CO alarms every 7 years. This will make sure that you have the best alarms as the technology improves.