What to Know About Carbon Monoxide Leaks and Detectors
Carbon monoxide leaks are the silent killer in your home. So that’s why you’ll most commonly hear carbon monoxide detectors being brought up in conversations about gas furnaces.
But the truth is that you need a carbon monoxide detector in your home for any natural gas-using appliance in your home, such as water heaters, ovens, and stoves.
In this post, we’ll clear the air on carbon monoxide leaks, as well as how to ensure that your carbon monoxide detectors are working properly.
First, What is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless and colorless gas that can escape from fuels that are not burned completely. Anything from campfires to running cars can create carbon monoxide. And for the average homeowner, the most common source of a CO problem would come from their gas appliances.
Inhaling carbon monoxide starves the body of oxygen and leads to suffocation. The symptoms leading up to CO poisoning are mild enough not to cause alarm—common symptoms such as those seen in the flu or cold.
Due to carbon monoxide leaks having a nature as deceptive and silent killers, the need for CO detectors was born.
How Do CO Detectors Work?
There are various kinds of CO detectors available, but they all have one thing in common: they trigger an alarm when they detect carbon monoxide in the air.
Biomimetic Sensor: A color-changing gel trigger the alert when CO is absorbed.
Metal Oxide Semiconductor: Electrical resistance is lowered when CO is detected by a microchip.
Electrochemical Sensor: Carbon monoxide creates changes in electrical currents, which is then detected by electrodes.
How Many Detectors Do I Need?
Despite how scary CO leaks sound, you don’t need to go overboard and have them placed in every single room. A good rule of thumb is to have at least one detector for each floor of your home. But you may want to have them placed near or close to the bedrooms. This will help ensure that anyone asleep during a CO leak will hear the alarm and wake up.
When Do I Test Them, and How Often?
You can test your carbon monoxide detector as early as once a week or once a month, but we wouldn’t recommend waiting any longer than 6 months. There’s no harm in performing a test, so it’s OK to be overly-cautious.
Testing can be different for each device, so we recommend looking at the owner’s manual or calling up an electrician in Olympia, WA for more information on your particular brand and model. In most cases, however, there will be a test button which you can hold down. If the test button doesn’t emit an alarm, then it’s time to replace the batteries or the unit itself.
How Often Should I Replace Them?
You can expect a CO detector to last about five to seven years, but you can expect the unit to come with an age indicator or an expiration date.