What is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas produced as a by-product of combustion; it is produced when carbon fuel (e.g. wood, gasoline, coal, propane, natural gas, heating oil) fails to burn completely. Any fuel-burning piece of equipment has the potential to produce dangerous levels of the colorless, odorless, tasteless gas. The most common sources include automobiles; fireplaces and woodstoves; non-electric furnaces; gas water heaters and stoves; and charcoal grills.

Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is poisonous. When the gas is inhaled, CO molecules bind to red blood cells, starving one’s body of oxygen after passing into the lungs. The CO prevents the blood from carrying oxygen to the tissues of the body, including those of the heart, brain, and other vital organs. Symptoms of CO poisoning vary significantly depending on one’s level of exposure, the duration of exposure, and the age and overall health of the affected individual. Symptoms consistently include headache, dizziness, and nausea, often mistaken for flu symptoms (which endangers the individual because it results in a delay of treatment). When experienced in conjunction with an alert from a CO detector, flu-like symptoms usually are indicative of a dangerous build-up of CO that could be lethal without treatment. (Other symptoms that might be present with CO poisoning include general weakness, vomiting, shortness of breath and lightheadedness, confusion, and more.)

Injuries and deaths attributed to CO poisoning typically are caused by malfunctioning fuel-burning equipment or misuse of that equipment. Many of these can be prevented by regular maintenance of fuel-burning equipment, but some causes are unpredictable and unavoidable. Injuries and deaths often result from these unpredictable causes, such as the presences of a cracked furnace heat exchanger, a malfunctioning furnace or water heater, or a blocked fireplace chimney; other unpredictable causes include vehicles left running inside a closed garage and gas-powered tools or equipment situated near home ventilation intakes. So, while regular maintenance of such equipment in the home can minimize the potential of toxic exposure to CO gas, a potentially life-threatening gas build-up is always a possibility. Because of this, CO detectors are one of the best investments a homeowner can make.

Basics of CO Detectors and How to Choose Effective Ones

There are several different types of CO detectors and alarms available. Some are wired into the household electrical current, while others are battery-operated. There are varying types of sensors associated with the different detectors as well; those utilizing the household current typically have a solid-state sensor while those powered by batteries use a more passive sensor type. But no matter what type of sensor is present in a CO detector, all of them should conform to the minimum sensitivity and alert characteristics as defined and verified by the code from Underwriters Laboratory (UL 2034). (If a CO detector is not UL listed, one should avoid it as it might not be up to code.)

As far as where to install CO detectors, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends that a detector is placed on every level of a home in a high location for the most effective use. A detector should be placed on each floor with sleeping quarters at the very least, with an additional detector placed near any gas-burning appliances in the home (e.g. furnace, water heater, stove). Having CO detectors in these specific spots helps to ensure prompt detection of CO build-up and allows residents to hear the alarm most easily. CO detectors should not be placed near gas-fueled appliances (including in kitchens or other cooking areas with these appliances), nor in bathing areas. Choosing a quality detector is one step towards protecting home residents and visitors from the dangers of CO.

If you are in the market for an alarm system for your home that includes a carbon monoxide detector, Dyezz Surveillance and Security can help. A professional provider of security solutions and fire control systems based in Austin, Texas, the expert team is ready to provide information and suggest high-quality products for the protection of you and your family. Contact Dyezz Surveillance and Security for a free consultation and quote.

Article written by: Erika Mehlhaff