Carbon Monoxide is the ‘Silent Killer.’
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is often referred to as the ‘silent killer’ and is the leading cause of deaths attributed to poison in the United States. It is odorless, invisible and an extremely dangerous gas that can be emitted from everyday appliances to the car parked in your garage. You cannot see or smell carbon monoxide, but at heightened levels it carries the potential of killing a person within mere minutes.
Carbon Monoxide is not just deadly in the winter; its dangers can plague us in summer as well. Carbon monoxide, or CO, occurs anytime you have something burning: oil, gas, wood, coal and charcoal. Fumes from automobiles, boats, lawn mowers, open fires, camp stoves and propane grills all contain carbon monoxide. So, whether you’re out camping, having a barbecue, enjoying time on the water or picnicking, CO poisoning may be lurking where you least expect it!
When appliances that burn fuel are maintained and properly used, the amount of CO produced is usually not hazardous. However, if appliances are not working properly or are used incorrectly, dangerous levels of CO can result. Hundreds of people die accidentally every year from CO poisoning caused by malfunctioning or improperly used fuel-burning appliances. Even more individuals die from CO produced by idling cars.
It is not safe to assume that the residents of all-electric homes that don’t have an internal source of carbon monoxide and without attached garages are safe from getting CO poisoning. Once the carbon monoxide is in the building envelope, it has the ability to get from unit to unit in that building since the porous drywall does nothing to stop the gas from seeping through. Potentially you can be poisoned by your neighbor who decides to bring a charcoal grill into their unit.
10 Things You Need to Know before Buying a Carbon Monoxide Alarm or a CO Detector
1. Will exposure to other household gases or vapors cause the CO alarm to sound a false alarm? Your home may contain moderate levels of cleaning chemicals and other substances. The following gases typically found in a home: normal concentrations of methane, butane, heptane, ethyl acetate (nail polish remover), isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol), carbon dioxide and propane. It is recommended to keep these chemicals away from your CO alarms. Low exposure over an extended period of time could damage the sensing device and cause it to sound a false alarm. Many people have died because false alarms caused them to not respond to a real alarm.
2. Audio alarm. Devices certified by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) have a minimum 85-decibel horn that can be heard within 10 feet.
3. Inter-connectivity. Interconnecting units are helpful in large homes because they communicate with one another; when one alarm detects a hazard, it triggers them all to sound an alarm. To work properly, all units must be made by the same manufacturer. While traditionally hardwired, battery-operated wireless interconnecting units are now available.
4. Sensor lifespan. The sensors on carbon monoxide detectors do wear away over time. Expect your unit to last at least five years. The better models have a low-battery alert, as well as an “End of Life” warning feature to let you know when the entire unit needs to be replaced.
5. Long warranty. Carbon monoxide detectors can malfunction, and the best units come with a warranty of at least five to seven years.
6. Testing functionality. It is the responsibility of the end user and field personnel of installers or service personnel to test units as required by the local inspector and/or standard (NFPA 720 2012) where it has been adopted.
7. What are the regulations in your state or municipality? Before you buy, research the local codes. They may specify requirements for placement and the number of units present in a home. Most states require a carbon monoxide detector to be installed in new homes or before the sale of a home. Some require hardwired or plug-in units to have battery backup in the case of a power outage. The National Conference of State Legislatures is a good resource for determining what regulations apply to you.
8. How are your current carbon monoxide detectors installed? Detectors may be hardwired, plugged into an outlet or battery operated, depending on the model. Some plug-in and hardwired units use batteries as a backup during a power failure and will not operate if they are not installed. If your current carbon monoxide detectors are hardwired, you will most likely want to keep that system. Otherwise, battery-operated and plug-in models are the easiest to install.
9. How many alarms do yu need? CO alarms should be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, according to the National Fire Protection Association, which also recommends interconnecting all units.
10. Does your unit meet safety standards? Check to see that the detector is certified by an independent testing agency such as Underwriters Laboratories or Canadian Standards Association.
Carbon Monoxide Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Detectors installed by Smart Shield Systems can greatly assist in detecting and identifying CO threats and give you ample amounts of time to evacuate your home.