AccuServ Heating and Air Conditioning

A 5 Point Checklist for Your Carbon Monoxide Alarm

January 27, 2020

Many homeowners buy a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm because they think it is a failsafe against carbon monoxide poisoning. This thinking is not only wrong but dangerous. Carbon monoxide alarms require some care to ensure they can alert your family in the case of high carbon monoxide traces in the home.

Read this five point checklist to ensure that your home’s carbon monoxide alarm can meet your needs.

My Carbon Monoxide Alarm Detects a Low Threshold of Carbon Monoxide

In the past, carbon monoxide detectors were set to have low thresholds for when the alarm rings. But homeowners and fire departments found this low threshold to be frustrating; the alarm would sound when non-dangerous levels of carbon monoxide were present.

Today’s carbon monoxide detectors have higher thresholds and time-based alarms. For example, a 70 ppm carbon monoxide level might be ignored for a brief period of time by your carbon monoxide detector. Only when that level of carbon monoxide has persisted for a certain period of time, such as one hour, will the alarm sound.

This can be dangerous. Although 70 ppm of carbon monoxide might not be dangerous to you, it can be a threat to the young, the elderly, and to asthma sufferers. Thus, homeowners, should know the threshold of their carbon monoxide alarms and determine whether such a threshold is appropriate for the demographic residing in the house.

My Carbon Monoxide Alarm Has a Working Battery

A carbon monoxide alarm is only as good as its battery. Two common reasons for carbon monoxide alarm failure are dead batteries and battery tampering. The former occurs when the battery simply runs out of juice, while the latter can occur by accident or by curious children.

The former is easily fixable: Either regularly replace the battery or buy a battery with a life time exceeding the lifetime of the carbon monoxide detector. The latter problem can be solved through buying a carbon monoxide alarm with a tamper-proof battery compartment. Alternatively, you can make it tamper-proof with superglue or heavy duty duct tape.

My Carbon Monoxide Alarm Is Recent

An older carbon monoxide alarm is more likely to have internal problems. Just as any other electrical component with wear-and-tear, a carbon monoxide alarm can appear working but have a fundamental internal flaw. Ensure that your carbon monoxide alarm is no older than five years.

A study performed in 2014 shows that 70% of older carbon monoxide detectors that seemed to be in working order actually failed at detecting dangerously high amounts of carbon monoxide.[1] On that note…

My Carbon Monoxide Alarm Is Not Past Its Expiration Date

Yes, like a carton of milk, a carbon monoxide alarm has an expiration date. Most of these dates are from five to ten years after production. Still, we recommend you use a carbon monoxide detector no older than four years old, regardless of what the expiration date is.

You can check the expiration date on the back of the carbon monoxide detector. Also, ensure you check the test button, which is also on the back. Hold it down for three seconds to ensure it works; if it does not work, you should buy a new one, perhaps of a different maker.

My Carbon Monoxide Alarm Is Located in the Right Place

If you have children, you might think the logical location of the carbon monoxide alarm is in their bedroom. But this ignores how carbon monoxide spreads. Because the origin point is the appliance producing combustion, often a better location for the carbon monoxide alarm is near that appliance.

An example of the flawed logic of placing the carbon monoxide alarm close to the living or sleeping areas of the home’s residents is those occasions when you must go to the basement, which is presumably sealed off. If your carbon monoxide is restricted to the first or second floor, carbon monoxide – undetectably by the human senses – could have built up in the basement without an alarm sounding. Then, once you or your children head to the basement, you could have a problem.

The best solution is to have multiple carbon monoxide alarms, placing them around the house. You should have at least one for each floor, including the basement. Remember, a carbon monoxide alarm can only detect the carbon monoxide close to it – it is not a failsafe device for the entire house.