CO Detectors: FAQ's & A Buyers Guide
To follow up on our last blog about smoke detectors, we have another essential home safety device to talk about: CO or Carbon Monoxide detectors. They are absolutely essential to your safety & well-being as CO is a silent killer as it is colorless, odorless & tasteless and can come from many sources that are used everyday in your home if left unattended. First, let’s talk about the most common ways CO can reach dangerous levels in your home.
Whenever you burn charcoal, leave a vehicle running in the garage with the doors shut, run your range to heat your home, leave gas-fueled camping equipment inside in an unvented storage space, or fail to have your propane or gas powered appliances serviced regularly, you run the risk of running your CO levels up to a dangerous level. Most of these causes are preventable with common-sense. However, there is always the chance that you have taken every precaution and used common sense and that a malfunction or leak of some kind occurs even in the most carefully attended homes. Every year, 400 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning (from fuel burning, not fires) and 20,000 are admitted to the emergency room. If you become unconscious while carbon monoxide is filling your home, your odds of dying or becoming very ill are frighteningly high. That's where carbon monoxide detectors come into play. Once installed, they can alert you about high levels of carbon monoxide in your home and help you get to safety immediately. This is why CO detectors are so essential to have and to keep maintained and in proper working order.
CO detectors work in 3 different basic ways: a biomimetic sensor, metal oxide semiconductor, or electrochemical sensor. Biometric sensors use gels that change color after absorbing a certain amount of carbon monoxide. Metal oxide semiconductors have silica chips that send electrical signals to trigger an alarm. Electrochemical sensors are considered to be the best in the industry. They use chemical solutions and electrodes that release currents to sound an alarm. They all work in very effective ways to alert you to dangerous levels in your home. However, like smoke detectors, they need bi-annual battery replacements (unless they are hard-wired) and also have expiration dates that as usually printed on the back of the detector (or have a built-in safeguard that will alert you when it is time to replace the detector with a new one). These 2 things are essential to make sure that your detectors are in proper working order.
Overall, CO detectors are one of the most essential items to install in your home to prevent a loss of life in an emergency, especially given the nature of CO and how difficult it is to detect without one of these devices. The rule of thumb is to place one detector on each level of your home and 2 in areas where leaks occur most frequently (i.e. garages, kitchens, etc.). Follow these rules, and check your local state’s laws about detectors for more information.