Carbon Monoxide Detectors

What is Carbon monoxide?

Carrier Carbon Monoxide detector

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, practically odorless, and tasteless gas. It results from incomplete oxidation of carbon in combustion CO can kill you before you are aware it is in your home. At lower levels of exposure, CO causes mild effects that are often mistaken for the flu. These symptoms include headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue. The effects of CO exposure can vary greatly from person to person depending on age, overall health and the concentration and length of exposure.

Sources of Carbon Monoxide

Improper combustion adjustment of gas furnaces, water heaters, and other gas appliances, improper exhaust of product of combustion, lack of sufficient combustion air, back-drafting from furnaces, leaking chimneys, leaky heat exchanger due to cracks or holes.

Health Effects Associated with Carbon Monoxide

At low concentrations: fatigue in healthy people and chest pain in people with heart disease. At higher concentrations: impaired vision and coordination; headaches; dizziness; confusion; nausea. Thus it can cause flu-like symptoms that clear up after leaving home. Fatal at very high concentrations. Acute effects are due to the formation of carboxyhemoglobin in the blood, which inhibits oxygen intake. At moderate concentrations, angina, impaired vision, and reduced brain function may result. At higher concentrations, CO exposure can be fatal.

Steps to Reduce Exposure to Carbon Monoxide

It is most important to be sure combustion equipment is maintained and properly adjusted. Keep gas appliances properly adjusted.

  • Consider purchasing a vented space heater when replacing an unvented one.
  • Use proper fuel in kerosene space heaters.
  • Install and use an exhaust fan vented to outdoors over gas stoves.
  • Open flues when fireplaces are in use.
  • Choose properly sized wood stoves that are certified to meet EPA emission standards. Make certain that doors on all wood stoves fit tightly.
  • Have a trained professional inspect, clean, and tune-up central heating system (furnaces, flues, and chimneys) annually. Repair any leaks promptly.
  • Do not idle the car inside garage.
  1. What should you do to prevent CO poisoning?
    • Make sure appliances are installed according to manufacturer’s instructions and local building codes. Most appliances should be installed by professionals. Have the heating system (including chimneys and vents) inspected and serviced annually. The inspector should also check chimneys and flues for blockages, corrosion, partial and complete disconnections, and loose connections.
    • Install a CO detector/alarm that meets the requirements of the current UL standard 2034 or the requirements of the IAS 6-96 standard. A carbon monoxide detector/alarm can provide added protection, but is no substitute for proper use and upkeep of appliances that can produce CO. Install a CO detector/alarm in the hallway near every separate sleeping area of the home. Make sure the detector cannot be covered up by furniture or draperies.
    • Never burn charcoal inside a home, garage, vehicle, or tent.
    • Never burn charcoal inside a home, garage, vehicle, or tent.
    • Never burn charcoal inside a home, garage, vehicle, or tent.
    • Never service fuel-burning appliances without proper knowledge, skills, and tools. Always refer to the owner’s manual when performing minor adjustments or servicing fuel-burning appliances.
    • Never use gas appliances such as ranges, ovens, or clothes dryers for heating your home
    • Never operate unvented fuel-burning appliances in any room with closed doors or windows or in any room where people are sleeping.
    • Do not use gasoline-powered tools and engines indoors. If use is unavoidable, ensure that adequate ventilation is available and whenever possible place engine unit to exhaust outdoors.
  2. How should I install a CO Alarm?
    • CO alarms should be installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions. CPSC recommends that one CO alarm be installed in the hallway outside the bedrooms in each separate sleeping area of the home. CO alarms may be installed into a plug-in receptacle or high on the wall because CO from any source will be well-mixed with the air in the house. Make sure furniture or draperies cannot cover up the alarm.
  3. How should a consumer test a CO detector/alarm to make sure it is working?
    • Consumers should follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Using a test button, some detectors/alarms test whether the circuitry as well as the sensor which senses CO is working, while the test button on other detectors only tests whether the circuitry is working. For those units which test the circuitry only, some manufacturers sell separate test kits to help the consumer test the CO sensor inside the alarm.