It has no color, odor or taste and cannot be detected by human senses. The early symptoms of exposure to it may resemble a simple case of the flu. Yet, more than 500 Americans die from accidental carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning every year, many in their sleep. Carbon monoxide detectors could prevent these deaths as well as the 15,000 cases of non-fatal poisoning that require hospitalization each year. CO is produced by incomplete combustion of fuels such as natural gas, gasoline, wood and coal — all common in home heating and cooking. The gas silently accumulates in enclosed spaces, rapidly reaching fatal levels. Death can occur in as little as three minutes unless the household is equipped with carbon monoxide detectors.
Detection of CO is a vital year-round precaution in a home with a natural gas water heater or stove. A defective gas-fired furnace or a fireplace with obstructed flue is an obvious CO threat in winter. Summer presents other possible sources. Outdoor charcoal grills too close to open windows can raise carbon monoxide levels inside, as can CO sources in an attached garage when the wall between the house and garage isn’t sealed properly. Unsafe use of a gasoline generator during a summer storm power outage is another potential source.
Household carbon monoxide detectors utilize one of two technologies to warn of harmful CO levels:
- Electrochemical detectors, the most widely-marketed, utilize a chemical reaction to the presence of CO gas to trigger a high-decibel audio alarm. They have low voltage requirements and most run off a single 9-volt battery like a smoke detector. This allows greater flexibility in location and installation in the home.
- Metal oxide semiconductor CO detectors rely on the reaction between carbon monoxide and metallic oxides to sense dangerous concentrations of the gas. These detectors must be hard-wired to a 120-volt power AC source, which may limit locations. However, AC power also permits options such as a digital display of current CO levels and an accessible memory of recent samplings.
Comfort Systems offers Wichita area homeowners year-round quality HVAC sales and service. Let us also ensure the health and safety of your indoor environment with carbon monoxide detectors.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about carbon monoxide detectors and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide.