Information about carbon monoxide alarms in your home

carbon monoxide

Carbon monoxide alarms save lives!

Carbon monoxide (CO) is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports each year CO poisoning kills more than 400 people in the U.S., and a majority of these deaths occur in residential settings. In addition, more than 20,000 individuals are injured due to CO poisoning every year. The California Air Resources Board estimates that CO poisoning accounts for up to 700 avoidable emergency room visits and hospitalizations, and hundreds to thousands of avoidable illnesses each year.

Carbon monoxide poisoning has many potential sources, including faulty furnaces, gas ranges and stoves, or gas clothes dryers; enclosed portable heaters; blocked chimneys and wood burning stoves; enclosed gas-powered generators and charcoal grills, to name a few.

According to U.S. Census data, 74% of California housing uses some form of fossil fuel burning heating which can generate carbon monoxide.

Initial symptoms of CO poisoning often mimic the flu — including headaches, dizziness, and nausea and often are misdiagnosed. When undetected, CO poisoning can lead to severe brain damage or death.

Choosing a carbon monoxide alarm for your home:

CO alarms are designed to alert the occupants of the home when carbon monoxide levels have begun to accumulate over a period of time, and will alarm before most adults would experience any CO poisoning symptoms.

Here are some key factors to look for when purchasing a CO alarm:

Electrochemical sensor: Alarms with electrochemical sensors are more stable during humidity and temperature changes and resist reacting to common household chemicals that may cause false readings.

End-of-life warning: Alerts consumers when it’s time to replace the alarm. As of 2008, all UL-listed CO alarms must contain an end-of-life warning. IMPORTANT: CO alarms do not detect the presence of CO when in end-of-life mode.

UL or CSA Listed: CO alarms should meet the strict third-party standards set by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or Canadian Standards Association (CSA). A “UL Listed” or “CSA Listed” label should be printed on the product’s packaging.

Here are a few of the major features to consider when selecting CO alarms for the home:

Accuracy: Look for a statement on the package about the alarm’s accuracy level. If the CO alarm is UL-listed, then the accuracy statement will have been certified by UL, too.

Battery Operated: Consumers who live in areas prone to power outages or who own a gas-powered generator should consider a battery-powered CO alarm with a backlit digital display. Battery-powered units offer 24-hour-a-day CO monitoring when power is interrupted. The backlit digital display allows the user to view the CO level in the dark. If you choose a battery-powered CO alarm, make sure it has charged batteries.

Digital Display Screen: Clearly shows the level of CO detected in the home and updates the reading every 15 seconds.

Peak-Level Memory: Records the highest level of CO present. Knowing the CO level in the home can help emergency personnel determine treatment.

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.

Voice Warning: Clearly announces the threat present in the home, in addition to emitting the traditional alarm beep. It is often a feature of combination smoke/CO alarms.

Recommendations on the optimal placement of your CO alarms:

Carbon monoxide alarms should be installed on every level of a home and near sleeping areas to help keep families safe. Because CO weighs about the same as air, a CO alarm can be placed on the wall, a table, or plugged into an electrical outlet.

Note: Combination smoke/CO alarms must be placed on a ceiling or wall due to the fact that smoke rises. Make sure CO alarms are at least 15 feet away from fuel-burning appliances to prevent false alarms. Don’t cover or obstruct the unit. Test the CO alarm monthly. Replace CO alarms every five years to benefit from the latest technology upgrades.

The only safe way to detect carbon monoxide in a home is with working carbon monoxide alarms.

Carbon monoxide alarms are not a substitute for fire detectors. For safety sake you should have both in your home or a smoke/CO combo alarm.