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What you don't know about carbon monoxide detectors

What you don't know about carbon monoxide detectors

by Terri Gruca

Bio | Email | Follow: @TerriG_KVUE


Posted on February 9, 2011 at 4:30 PM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 9 at 4:30 PM

With this week’s cold temperatures more people will be running heaters and that always increases the chances of carbon monoxide poisoning.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission just took a look at the number of carbon monoxide deaths from 1999 to 2007. Here’s some of what the agency found.

In 2007 there were 183 carbon monoxide deaths. Heating Systems were associated with the largest percentage of non-fire CO poisoning fatalities at 38 percent (estimated 70 deaths). Engine-Driven Tools-related CO fatalities were also associated with 38 percent (69 deaths), and the remaining six product categories [Charcoal Grills or Charcoal (7 deaths); Ranges, Ovens (7 deaths); WaterHeaters (3 deaths); Grills, Camp Stoves (3 deaths); Other Products (1 death); and Multiple Products (24 deaths)] combined were associated with a total of 25 percent. There were no reported deaths in the Lanterns – LP Fueled category.

Because carbon monoxide often goes unnoticed it’s really important to have a carbon monoxide detector.

But here are some things you need to keep in mind.

Different Types of Detectors

There are two kinds of carbon monoxide detectors.

A carbon monoxide alarm warns you when CO reaches dangerously high levels. An alarm is what Minnesota's new law requires in new construction and next year will require in all homes. The new UL standard adopted several years ago raised the level of carbon monoxide at which an alarm must sound. This means the levels must reach a more dangerous point before an alarm goes off. Right now that standard only requires that alarms sound when levels reach 70ppm. Carbon monoxide alarms tend to cost less--typically between $10 and $50. These are easy to find in your local hardware or home improvement store.

A carbon monoxide monitor detects low levels of CO often levels as low as 5ppm to 10ppm. The alarms sound when levels are as low as 25ppm--which experts say can often be the first hint of a problem. Carbon monoxide monitors are more sensitive. They often keep daily tallies of the levels in your home so they can be more expensive--up to $130. 

Common Mistakes in Placing Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Investigators have found people often place CO detectors next to their furnace, but that often won't wake you up in the middle of the night. It is recommended that you have at least two detectors. You need one within 25 feet of your furnace. You should also place another one within 10 feet of each bedroom in your home.

Don't place CO detectors too close to the garage or other gas burning appliances or too close to a window-those can give you false readings.

Remember carbon monoxide detectors don't last forever. Overtime they lose their sensitivity. So they should be replaced at least every five to seven years.

Look for ones with an end of life warning. The best ones will tell you when it’s time to throw them away.