All homes in Randallstown, MD, should have carbon monoxide monitors installed. In fact, if you own a rental property in Maryland, these additions are legally required. They identify elevated levels of carbon monoxide (CO) gas and send out timely alerts. This allows residents to exit buildings before developing any of the serious symptoms that CO exposure causes. In instances in which CO concentrations are exceptionally high, these early alerts can also prevent permanent physical injuries and death. Read on to find out why CO detection is so important.

Carbon Monoxide Is Created Whenever Fuels Are Burned Incompletely

Carbon monoxide forms whenever carbon-containing fuels are burned incompletely. These include:

  • Wood
  • Charcoal
  • Propane
  • Natural gas
  • Heating oil

If they’re used in or around your home, coal and kerosene can also cause CO exposure and the resulting health risks.

Although modern appliances are increasingly fuel efficient and lose far less energy in the form of exhaust, their fuel-burning activities still produce harmful byproducts, including CO. When installing fuel-combusting appliances, technicians carefully route their exhaust gases out of homes. Unfortunately, the related venting systems aren’t impervious to damage or malfunction. These systems can be blocked, crushed or subject to back drafting due to severe weather events, falling items, fast-growing trees or other natural obstructions, as well as excessively tight home envelopes.

CO Gas Is Both Odorless and Colorless

When you have a natural gas leak in your home, you’ll be able to smell it. Natural gas is odorless and colorless on its own, but it has a special addition known as mercaptan that sends out a smelly alert. Mercaptan or methanethiol has a distinctive, rotten-egg odor that lets homeowners know there’s a gas problem.

Unfortunately, given that carbon monoxide is an unintentional byproduct of incomplete fuel combustion, no helpful additions like mercaptan are applied. This gas is completely undetectable by sight or smell. Thus, most people aren’t aware of its presence until they already feel ill.

Common Causes of CO Exposure in Residential Buildings

As an increasing number of property owners are switching to all-electric home appliances, the risk of CO exposure declines. However, if you still have an oil-fired or gas-fired heater or water heater in your home, having one or more carbon monoxide detectors installed is important. Other common sources of CO gas include wood-burning stoves, fireplaces, gas-powered stoves and ovens, as well as gas-powered dryers.

When these appliances fill homes with CO gas, it’s usually due to a malfunction within their exhaust systems. However, there are also times when building residents unintentionally introduce carbon monoxide into their homes by using unvented equipment within sealed spaces. For instance, if your power goes out, you might attempt to turn your lights back on by firing up a portable gas generator, or you may choose to start up a propane-powered grill to temporarily cook your meals. Running appliances like these in sealed buildings can spell disaster due to the exhaust gases they create. This is also true of many power tools and certain forms of fuel-powered lawn equipment.

Another common source of CO gas is the garage. Whenever you turn your gas-powered vehicle on and run it, carbon monoxide is released via its exhaust. Turning a car on while it’s parked in an attached garage and letting its engine idle can allow potentially deadly amounts of CO to flow into the home. Absent of this knowledge, young or otherwise inexperienced automobile owners can be alerted by CO monitoring systems of their error before it’s too late.

What Is Back Drafting, and Are You at Risk?

In addition to damaged or malfunctioning exhaust systems and unintentional errors, back drafting is a top risk for CO exposure. In fact, the risk of carbon monoxide exposure via back drafting is actually on the rise. As homeowners increasingly tighten their home envelopes, they gradually grow closer to creating negative air pressure within their living environments.

Adding insulation to your home, upgrading your windows and sealing up air leaks in building materials are all things that add to the overall efficiency of the building. These measures ensure that the conditioned air being distributed by your HVAC system isn’t allowed to escape outdoors. However, over-tightening a home envelope can cause dangerous exhaust gases, from boilers, furnaces, water heaters and stoves, to be pulled back into the building. Even simply turning on an exhaust fan or your stove’s range hood vent could be a catalyst for back drafting if your home envelope is excessively tight and your indoor air pressure is negative.

How Carbon Monoxide Monitors Work

Typically installed on upper walls or ceilings, carbon monoxide detectors sound alarms whenever elevated levels of CO gas are identified over a period of time. Surprisingly, in homes with fuel-burning appliances, there are always small amounts of CO gas present when these appliances are in use. For instance, trace amounts of carbon monoxide are often found within a small perimeter around oil-fired and gas-fired furnaces and boilers. As such, it’s generally best to install CO detectors at least nine feet away from these and other CO-producing units.

There are several types of carbon monoxide detectors available for residential use. The most common CO monitors use electrochemical sensors to both detect and measure this gas. They contain a small amount of an electrolyte or electrically charged solution in which several electrodes are submerged. The compartment that houses this electrolyte is gas-permeable. When carbon monoxide enters this chamber, a quick chemical reaction causes an electrical surge. When electrical surges are sufficiently high, they trigger the unit’s alarm system to alert building residents of danger.

How Many Carbon Monoxide Detectors Do You Need?

As per the International Association of Fire Chiefs, all homes should have carbon monoxide detectors on every floor. This remains true even in environments in which no fuel-burning appliances are present. CO gas can enter the home through attached garages due to running cars or gas-powered tools and equipment. The accidental release of CO gas is also possible when anyone uses a fuel-powered stove, fireplace or other gadget without adequate venting. Detectors should be positioned within 10 feet of all bedroom doors and right near any attached parking structure. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) makes comparable recommendations, such as installing CO monitors in the hallways near every sleeping area.

Carbon Monoxide Monitors and Smoke Detection

In many homes, carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors are one and the same. These multifunction devices have separate mechanisms for identifying dangerous gases, high heat and smoke fumes. They also have distinct-sounding alarms for each threat that they monitor.

When choosing CO detectors for your home, you can look for multifunction devices like these or choose separate, standalone units. There’s also the option to have your smoke and CO detectors wired directly into your home’s electrical system.

How Often Should Carbon Monoxide Detectors Be Replaced?

Refer to the owners’ manuals for your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to learn their exact life expectancy. Most of these monitors are expected to last between five and seven years. Both detectors that run solely on batteries and detectors with backup batteries that are wired directly into residential electrical systems should receive battery changes once each year.

We’re committed to keeping our clients comfortable and safe in their homes. We offer heating, cooling and plumbing services to residents of Randallstown, MD, and the surrounding communities. We also provide smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and surge protection.

To find out more or to schedule an appointment, contact us today!

HB Home Service Team

company icon