Carbon Monoxide Detector Installation
In the United States, emergency rooms treat about 20,000 people for carbon monoxide (CO) exposure each year, and an average of 400 people die from carbon monoxide exposure annually [source: ]CDC]. Most nonfatal exposures happen in people's homes, which is why it's important to have a CO detector to go along with — or as part of — your smoke detector.
Before selecting a carbon monoxide (CO) detector, do a little research. Determine whether your local laws require you to have CO detectors of a particular type or configuration. You'll need to decide whether you'd rather have a battery-operated or plug-in detector. A plug-in unit goes into any wall outlet and can be moved to another room if necessary. But unless your plug-in unit has a battery backup, you're unprotected in the event of a power failure. This may not seem like a big deal in the case of temporary outages, but imagine a long power outage during winter. You may turn to a portable space heater or a wood stove to keep your home warm — exactly the sort of fuel-burner that may release CO into the air.
Battery-operated units, on the other hand, are typically attached permanently to a surface in your home. This usually isn't a problem unless your detector mistakes other gases for CO, causing false alarms and prompting you to move the unit. Depending on the size of your home and the number and location of fuel-burning appliances, a combination of types may work best. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for placement, maintenance and scheduled inspection.
The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) recommends carbon monoxide detectors in several locations:
- Outside sleeping areas
- On each floor of the home
- Anywhere else required by law
The NFPA also recommends using detectors that can be linked so that one alarm sets off all the others, alerting the whole household.
Installing CO detectors is only one step in preventing carbon monoxide poisoning. Other important steps include:
- Have furnaces and chimneys inspected every year and serviced as needed. Be sure to open the flue before lighting the fire.
- Have gas-burning appliances installed only by a qualified professional. Follow all manufacturer's instructions carefully.
- Use tools that burn fuel only in well ventilated areas.
- Make sure furnace, water heater and dryer vents are kept clear of leaves, debris and snow.
- Repair or replace any fuel-burning tools, like lawn mowers or chainsaws, that are not working properly.
- Have your car's exhaust system inspected for leaks, and never idle your car in the garage.
- Never use an oven as a heat source or use a grill inside your home.
- Never use generators indoors.
Finally, test your carbon monoxide detector monthly — it's your last line of defense against a malfunctioning stove or heater.
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More Great Links
- Busch, Mike. "Carbon Monoxide Detectors." Aviation News Online. Nov. 9, 2003. http://www.avweb.com/news/aeromed/186016-1.html
- Carbon Monoxide Detector suits HVAC industry. Product News Network. (June 3, 2004): NA. Computer Database. Gale. Grand Rapids Public Library. 29 July 2008.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Carbon Monoxide Poisoning. Frequently Asked Question." March 21, 2018. (March 26, 2020) https://www.cdc.gov/co/faqs.htm
- Conductive Ceramics. Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online Library Edition.
- Cobb, N. and Etzel RA. "Unintentional Carbon-monoxide Related Deaths in the United States, 1979 through 1988." Journal of the American Medical Association. Vol. 266, no. 5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1712865
- Popular Science. Detecting Peak CO. (WHAT'S NEW) Popular Science, August 1999 v255 i2 p22(1). Science Resource Center. Gale. 29 July 2008
- Schueller, Randy. "How Products are Made: An illustrated guide to products manufacturing." (pages 84-87). 1999. Gale Research
- Underwriters Laboratories. "Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips." http://www.ul.com/consumers/monoxide.html
- Underwriters Laboratories. "UL 2034." http://www.protechsafety.com/standard/ul2034.pdf
- U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. "New Standard for Carbon Monoxide Detectors Can Save Hundreds of Lives Each Year." May 4, 1992 http://www.cpsc.gov/CPSCPUB/PREREL/prhtml92/92081.html