A Facebook friend of mine recently had a big scare, one that could have killed her and her family. A carbon monoxide detector saved their lives. Their furnace and stove were both blamed for the problem, after they had the fire department, gas company and building inspector check things out. Especially this time of year, as people start to use heaters and generators more, it’s important to make sure you have a carbon monoxide detector installed in your home and that it’s working.
This doesn’t have to be a big deal. There are a variety of ways to get one. Some are combined with smoke detectors, but make sure you know for certain that your detector has both; don’t assume a smoke detector handles carbon monoxide as many do not. There are also models that simply plug into the wall.
On hearing my friend’s story, I took a look at my carbon monoxide detector. It was plugged into the wall upstairs, near the kids’ bedroom. Now, detectors are only good for a limited number of years, usually 5-7 years. Mine was almost 10 years old, so I am quite grateful for the reminder to replace it, as it probably wasn’t really working anymore.
I selected the Kidde KN-COPP-3 Nighthawk Plug-In Carbon Monoxide Alarm with Battery Backup and Digital Display, and bought two of them. Not in the two pack but individually, as the two pack at the time was not the better deal. One is for upstairs, the other for downstairs. I like that it has a display where you can see how much CO it’s detecting. It’s easy to mount up on the wall while still leaving it plugged in, or you can have it down at the outlet. There’s battery backup, so you can count on it even during an outage (so long as you replace the battery regularly) – vital if you ever need to use a generator during a power outage!
Placement is important for CO detectors. You don’t want to put it right by something that might make carbon monoxide – that can cause too many false alarms. It’s usually not advised to put one in your garage, especially if you park your car in there. Such places will sometimes have a bit of carbon monoxide buildup for a short time, but it should go away quickly.
You also don’t want to put one in a place where the air doesn’t circulate much. Don’t hide one away behind the furniture or near a vaulted ceiling if you can help it. You want it testing the air you breathe.
Make sure your kids don’t play with your detectors. They probably won’t damage it as such, but you don’t want it to come loose from where you’ve plugged it in, or have the battery come loose if it’s battery powered.
You should test your CO detectors the same times you test your smoke detectors – that is, when you change your clocks each year. It only takes a moment, but could be vital to your family.
Some states require homes to have carbon monoxide detectors. You can get more information at http://www.ncsl.org/research/environment-and-natural-resources/carbon-monoxide-detectors-state-statutes.aspx or from your state or local housing department.
Carbon Monoxide Facts
Carbon monoxide (CO) in the home can be created by anything that burns fuel such as hot water heaters, stoves, ovens, grills or furnaces. This includes anything that burns wood, charcoal, propane, natural gas, kerosene, etc. Visit http://www.cpsc.gov/en/Safety-Education/Safety-Education-Centers/Carbon-Monoxide-Information-Center/Carbon-Monoxide-Questions-and-Answers-/ for more information.
CO is colorless and odorless, that’s why you need a detector for it. The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to the flu, and include headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea and dizziness. Symptoms will be more severe if the levels of carbon monoxide get too high, and may also include mental confusion, vomiting, loss of muscular coordination, loss of consciousness and death. If you’re concerned about your symptoms but don’t have a CO detector or aren’t sure it’s working, get outside and seek medical attention. You will also want to have the gas company test your home for problems.
Portable generators are a major cause of carbon monoxide poisoning, which is why they should never be used indoors or in any enclosed space. If you use one, consider the information in this infographic, created by the CPSC: