Carbon monoxide is a deadly gas that is invisible, odorless, and tasteless. It’s often called the “silent killer” because it can be difficult to detect without the proper equipment. Carbon monoxide is produced when fuels such as gas, oil, coal, and wood are burned.
It can be found in homes, cars, and other enclosed spaces, and exposure to high levels of carbon monoxide can lead to serious health problems or even death.
That’s why it’s important to have a carbon monoxide alarm in your home or workplace. In this blog, we’ll explore the importance of carbon monoxide alarms and how they work to keep you and your loved ones safe.
- 1 What Is Carbon Monoxide Alarm?
- 2 How To Do Carbon Monoxide Alarm Work
- 3 Signs of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
- 4 Why Carbon Monoxide Alarm Important?
- 5 What Triggers Carbon Monoxide Alarm?
- 6 Types Of Carbon Monoxide Alarm
- 7 What Causes Carbon Monoxide In A House?
- 8 Carbon Monoxide Alarm Advantages
- 9 Difference Between Carbon Monoxide Alarm VS Heat Detector
- 10 Where To Install Carbon Monoxide Alarm In A House
- 11 What To Do If Your Carbon Monoxide Alarm Goes Off?
- 12 Conclusion
What Is Carbon Monoxide Alarm?
Carbon monoxide alarms are designed to detect the presence of CO in the air and alert you to the danger. They work by sounding an alarm when they detect a certain level of CO in the air.
This is usually around 70 parts per million (ppm) for most alarms.
Some alarms have different sensitivity levels, so it is important to check the manufacturer’s instructions to see what level your alarm is set to.
Carbon monoxide alarms are often installed in homes and businesses, especially in areas where fossil fuels are used for heating or cooking.
How To Do Carbon Monoxide Alarm Work
Carbon monoxide (CO) alarms work by detecting the presence of carbon monoxide gas in the air and alerting occupants with an audible alarm.
They typically use sensors that are sensitive to carbon monoxide gas and can detect it at certain concentrations.
Most carbon monoxide alarms use electrochemical sensors or metal oxide semiconductor (MOS) sensors.
Electrochemical sensors work by using a chemical reaction between carbon monoxide and an electrolyte to generate an electrical current, which is then measured to determine the concentration of carbon monoxide.
MOS sensors work by changing the electrical resistance of a metal oxide in the presence of carbon monoxide, which is then measured to determine the concentration of carbon monoxide.
When carbon monoxide gas is present in the air and reaches a certain concentration, typically measured in parts per million (ppm), the sensor in the carbon monoxide alarm is triggered, and it sounds an audible alarm to alert the occupants.
The alarm may also have visual indicators such as LED lights to indicate the presence of carbon monoxide.
Signs of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is a serious and potentially deadly condition that can occur when carbon monoxide gas is inhaled in sufficient amounts.
Carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless, and tasteless, making it difficult to detect without proper equipment.
Signs of carbon monoxide poisoning can vary depending on the level and duration of exposure, but common symptoms include:
Headache: A dull, persistent headache is often one of the early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. It may be accompanied by dizziness or lightheadedness.
Nausea and vomiting: Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause nausea and vomiting, often accompanied by abdominal pain.
Fatigue and weakness: Feeling unusually tired or weak, even with minimal physical activity, can indicate carbon monoxide poisoning.
Chest pain: Chest pain or discomfort may occur in cases of severe carbon monoxide poisoning, as carbon monoxide can affect the heart and cardiovascular system.
Confusion and cognitive changes: Carbon monoxide can impair cognitive function, leading to confusion, difficulty concentrating, memory problems, and even changes in behavior or personality.
Shortness of breath: Breathing difficulties, shortness of breath, or rapid breathing may occur in severe cases of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Cherry-red skin color: In some cases, carbon monoxide poisoning can cause the skin to take on a cherry-red color, particularly in severe or prolonged exposure cases.
Why Carbon Monoxide Alarm Important?
One of the reasons why carbon monoxide alarms are so important is that CO is a silent killer.
Because it is odorless and colorless, it can build up in your home without you even realizing it.
This means you could be exposed to dangerous levels of CO without even knowing it. By having an alarm in your home, you can be alerted to the presence of CO and take action to protect yourself and your family.
Another reason why carbon monoxide alarms are important is that they can save lives.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 400 Americans each year die on average from unintentional CO poisoning.
Additionally, more than 20,000 people visit the emergency room and more than 4,000 are hospitalized due to CO poisoning. Having an alarm in your home can reduce your risk of becoming one of these statistics.
Carbon monoxide alarms are also relatively inexpensive and easy to install. You do not need special tools or skills to install one in your home.
Most alarms plug into an electrical outlet or run on batteries.
It is important to test your alarm regularly to ensure it works properly. Some alarms have a test button that you can press to check the battery and alarm.
What Triggers Carbon Monoxide Alarm?
Carbon monoxide (CO) alarms are triggered when the sensor in the alarm detects the presence of carbon monoxide gas in the air at levels that are potentially dangerous to human health.
Carbon monoxide alarms typically have a pre-set threshold, usually measured in parts per million (ppm), at which the alarm will sound.
When the concentration of carbon monoxide in the air exceeds this threshold, the alarm is triggered, emitting an audible alarm to alert occupants.
The specific trigger point or threshold for carbon monoxide alarms may vary depending on the manufacturer and model and local regulations and guidelines.
However, common trigger points for residential carbon monoxide alarms are typically set at around 30-70 ppm for low-level and 70-400 ppm for high-level alarms.
Some carbon monoxide alarms may also have different alarm levels or patterns to indicate different levels of danger, such as a warning alarm for low levels of carbon monoxide and a more urgent alarm for higher levels.
Types Of Carbon Monoxide Alarm
There are several types of carbon monoxide (CO) alarms available in the market, each with its features and sensing technologies. The most common types of carbon monoxide alarms are:
Electrochemical Sensor: These alarms use an electrochemical cell to detect the presence of carbon monoxide in the air.
When carbon monoxide comes into contact with the electrochemical cell, it produces an electrical current that triggers the alarm.
Electrochemical sensor alarms are known for their accuracy and sensitivity to low levels of carbon monoxide, making them suitable for residential use.
Biomimetic Sensor: These alarms use a gel or liquid that changes color when it absorbs carbon monoxide.
The change in color triggers the alarm. Biomimetic sensor alarms are affordable and have a relatively long lifespan, but they may not be as sensitive to low levels of carbon monoxide as electrochemical sensors.
Metal Oxide Semiconductor (MOS) Sensor: These alarms use a small heater and a metal oxide film to detect carbon monoxide.
When carbon monoxide comes into contact with the metal oxide film, it changes the electrical resistance, which triggers the alarm.
MOS sensor alarms are known for their long lifespan and resistance to false alarms, but they may not be as sensitive to low levels of carbon monoxide as electrochemical sensors.
Photoelectric Sensor: These alarms use a light source and a photosensitive cell to detect carbon monoxide.
When carbon monoxide enters the chamber, it scatters the light detected by the photosensitive cell, triggering the alarm.
Photoelectric sensor alarms are known for their fast response time and ability to detect smoldering fires. Still, they may not be as sensitive to low levels of carbon monoxide as electrochemical sensors.
Combination Sensor: These alarms combine two or more sensing technologies, such as electrochemical and photoelectric sensors, to provide a dual detection mechanism for carbon monoxide and smoke/fire.
Combination sensor alarms are designed to provide comprehensive protection against both carbon monoxide and fire hazards, but they may be more expensive than single-sensor alarms.
What Causes Carbon Monoxide In A House?
One of the leading causes of carbon monoxide in a house is a faulty heating system. Furnaces, boilers, and water heaters that run on natural gas, oil, or propane can all produce carbon monoxide if not functioning correctly.
If a heating system is not properly maintained or installed, it can create a buildup of carbon monoxide in the home.
Gas Stoves and Ovens: Gas stoves and ovens are another potential sources of carbon monoxide in a house. If these appliances are not vented correctly, they can produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.
Homeowners should always ensure that their gas stoves and ovens are installed and maintained correctly to prevent carbon monoxide from building up in the home.
Blocked Chimneys and Flues: Chimneys and flues are designed to remove harmful gases from the home. However, if these passageways become blocked or clogged, carbon monoxide can quickly build up in the home.
Common culprits that can cause blockages include debris, bird nests, and other obstructions.
Homeowners should have their chimneys and flues inspected and cleaned regularly to prevent carbon monoxide buildup.
Generators: Portable generators can be a lifesaver during a power outage but can also be dangerous if not used correctly.
Generators produce carbon monoxide, which can quickly fill a home if the generator is used indoors or in an enclosed area.
Homeowners should always use generators outside and away from open windows or doors to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
Vehicles: Running a vehicle in an attached garage or leaving it running near an open window or door can also produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide in the home.
Even a few minutes of exposure to carbon monoxide from a running vehicle can be deadly.
Homeowners should never run a vehicle in an enclosed space or near an open window or door.
Carbon Monoxide Alarm Advantages
Carbon monoxide (CO) alarms have several advantages, including:
Early Warning: Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that can be deadly at high concentrations.
Carbon monoxide alarms provide early warning when the gas is present in the air, allowing occupants to evacuate the premises and seek fresh air before the levels become life-threatening.
Increased Safety: Carbon monoxide alarms significantly reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, which can cause symptoms ranging from mild headaches and nausea to severe illness or even death.
By alerting occupants to the presence of carbon monoxide, alarms help prevent exposure and potential health hazards.
Easy Installation: Carbon monoxide alarms are typically easy to install and can be placed in various locations in a home or building, including bedrooms, living rooms, hallways, and near fuel-burning appliances.
Many alarms are battery-powered, eliminating the need for complicated wiring or electrical connections.
Affordable: Carbon monoxide alarms are relatively affordable compared to the potential consequences of carbon monoxide poisoning. Various options are available in the market to suit different budgets and requirements.
Versatility: Carbon monoxide alarms are available in different types, including electrochemical, biomimetic, metal oxide semiconductor (MOS), and photoelectric sensors, as well as combination sensors that offer dual detection for both carbon monoxide and smoke/fire.
This allows for flexibility in choosing the type of alarm that best fits the specific needs and requirements of a home or building.
Compliance with Regulations: In many jurisdictions, carbon monoxide alarms are required by law in residential buildings or buildings with fuel-burning appliances or attached garages.
Installing carbon monoxide alarms helps ensure compliance with local regulations and promotes overall safety in the home or building.
Peace of Mind: Carbon monoxide alarms provide peace of mind to occupants, knowing that they have an additional layer of protection against the silent and potentially deadly threat of carbon monoxide.
A working carbon monoxide alarm can help occupants feel safer and more confident in their living or working environment.
Difference Between Carbon Monoxide Alarm VS Heat Detector
Carbon monoxide alarms and heat detectors are two different types of devices used for different purposes:
Detection Method: Carbon monoxide alarms detect the presence of carbon monoxide gas in the air, a byproduct of the incomplete combustion of fuels such as gas, oil, or wood.
Heat detectors, on the other hand, detect changes in temperature and trigger an alarm when a certain temperature threshold is exceeded.
Function: Carbon monoxide alarms are specifically designed to detect the presence of carbon monoxide gas, which can be a silent and deadly threat as it is odorless, colorless, and tasteless.
They are used to warn occupants of potential carbon monoxide poisoning. Heat detectors, on the other hand, are designed to detect temperature changes, typically indicating a fire or excessive heat in a specific area.
Location of Installation: Carbon monoxide alarms are typically installed in living areas, bedrooms, and near fuel-burning appliances, as carbon monoxide gas can accumulate in these areas.
On the other hand, heat detectors are usually installed in areas where smoke detectors may not be suitable, such as kitchens, garages, and boiler rooms, where smoke or steam from cooking or heating processes may cause false alarms for smoke detectors.
Trigger Mechanism: Carbon monoxide alarms are triggered by the presence of carbon monoxide gas in the air, which is detected by the sensors within the alarm.
Heat detectors, on the other hand, are triggered by changes in temperature and do not detect gas or smoke.
Purpose: Carbon monoxide alarms are specifically designed to provide early warning of carbon monoxide gas, which can be lethal in high concentrations.
Heat detectors, on the other hand, are designed to provide early warning of fire or excessive heat in a specific area, allowing occupants to take appropriate action to extinguish or evacuate the premises.
Where To Install Carbon Monoxide Alarm In A House
Carbon monoxide alarms should be strategically installed throughout a house to provide optimal coverage and early warning of potential carbon monoxide gas leaks.
Here are some recommendations for installing carbon monoxide alarms in a house:
Near sleeping areas: Install a carbon monoxide alarm in the hallway or common area outside bedrooms to provide early warning while occupants are asleep.
On each level of the house: Install carbon monoxide alarms on every level, including the basement and attic, to provide comprehensive coverage.
Carbon monoxide gas can spread throughout the house, so having alarms on multiple levels can help ensure early detection.
Near fuel-burning appliances: Install carbon monoxide alarms near fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, water heaters, gas stoves, and fireplaces, as these appliances are potential sources of carbon monoxide leaks.
In attached garages: Install a carbon monoxide alarm in any attached garage or carport, as vehicle exhaust fumes can release carbon monoxide gas, which can seep into the living spaces of a house.
In areas with potential carbon monoxide sources: Install carbon monoxide alarms in areas where potential carbon monoxide sources are present, such as utility rooms, laundry rooms, and boiler rooms.
Follow manufacturer’s instructions: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation, placement, and maintenance of carbon monoxide alarms, as different models may have specific requirements.
What To Do If Your Carbon Monoxide Alarm Goes Off?
If your carbon monoxide alarm goes off, it is important to take immediate action to protect yourself and your household. Here are some steps to follow:
Take it seriously: Treat a carbon monoxide alarm as a serious emergency. Carbon monoxide is a deadly gas that can quickly accumulate in enclosed spaces, and its presence can be life-threatening.
Evacuate the premises: If the carbon monoxide alarm goes off, evacuate the building immediately. Move to a safe location outdoors, such as a neighbor’s house or an open area away from the building.
Call for help: Call emergency services, such as 911 or your local fire department, from a safe location to report the situation. Inform them that your carbon monoxide alarm has gone off and that you suspect a carbon monoxide leak.
Do not re-enter the building: Do not re-enter the building until it has been declared safe by emergency personnel. Do not attempt to investigate or fix the problem yourself, as you could be exposed to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.
Check for symptoms: If you or anyone in your household are experiencing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, such as headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, confusion, or difficulty breathing, seek medical attention immediately.
Ventilate the building: If it is safe to do so, open windows and doors to ventilate the building and allow fresh air to circulate. Avoid using fans that may spread carbon monoxide fumes.
Have the source of the leak fixed: Once emergency personnel have deemed the building safe, contact a qualified technician to inspect and repair the source of the carbon monoxide leak.
Do not use fuel-burning appliances or turn on the gas supply until the issue has been resolved.
Carbon monoxide alarms are essential safety devices that can provide early warning of the presence of carbon monoxide gas, a deadly odorless and colorless gas.
Carbon monoxide alarms work by detecting the levels of carbon monoxide in the air and sounding an alarm when concentrations reach dangerous levels.
They are typically easy to install and should be strategically placed throughout a house according to the manufacturer’s instructions and local building codes.
Carbon monoxide alarms have several advantages, including providing early warning of a carbon monoxide leak, helping to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, and potentially saving lives.
Hi, I m Aaron Smith, a firefighter, and creator of Firefighterline.com, a website that provides top-notch training courses for firefighting organizations. After completing my studies, I quickly rose through the fire service ranks, eventually becoming Captain at one of the busiest fire departments in the state.