Your home is a hub for activities — including cooking meals, watching television by the fire and warming up the car to take the kids to the next event. Your home is also a haven that you work to keep safe. Whether you spend time baby-proofing stairways, installing new locks or putting dangerous objects out of reach, you care about diminishing apparent threats. However, have you considered the risks you cannot see?
Carbon monoxide is an invisible danger. This gas is difficult to detect and can have dangerous effects in large quantities. Most homes have carbon monoxide detectors to keep families out of trouble. However, if you’ve never experienced any outright issues, you may forget to check your sensor to ensure it is functioning correctly. Your family’s safety is priceless. The protective measures you take with your carbon monoxide detector can be lifesaving in an emergency.
Why Are Carbon Monoxide Detectors Important?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless and colorless gas that emanates from fuel-burning sources. You may already know your vehicle is a CO source, but there are other, less apparent, hazards. Everything from fireplaces and gas ranges to furnaces, grills, small engines, stoves and portable generators can also emit carbon monoxide.
Exposure to carbon monoxide can make you and your loved ones sick. The signs of carbon monoxide poisoning mimic common flu symptoms, which makes it harder to pinpoint CO as the issue. The longer you are exposed to carbon monoxide, the more severe symptoms you will experience, including:
- 200 ppm: You may experience a mild headache after two to three hours of exposure.
- 400 ppm: You may have headaches and nausea after one or two hours of exposure.
- 800 ppm: You may experience dizziness, a headache and nausea after 45 minutes and lose consciousness after an hour.
- 1,000 ppm: You may lose consciousness after just one hour.
- 1,600 ppm: You may experience headaches, dizziness and nausea after 20 minutes.
- 3,200 ppm: You may have a headache, dizziness and nausea within five to 10 minutes and lose consciousness after 30 minutes of exposure.
- 6,400 ppm: You may have a headache and feel dizzy after one or two minutes. After 10 to 15 minutes, you are at risk of losing consciousness and may be in danger of death.
- 12,800 ppm: You may experience immediate symptoms and unconsciousness. After one to three minutes, you may be at risk for death.
As carbon monoxide levels rise, the risk of danger multiplies, and you should treat it as the life-and-death matter it is. CO detectors play a vital role in measuring the amount of carbon monoxide in the air. They are there to warn you when levels become dangerous. Depending on the type of detector, it may beep specific patterns to alert you when to evacuate to fresh air.
When to Change a Carbon Monoxide Detector
Do you need to replace carbon monoxide detectors? How long do carbon monoxide detectors last? Most of these devices last five to seven years. During their lifespan, you’ll need to perform regular function tests and keep them stocked with working batteries.
How to Do a Carbon Monoxide Detector Test
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends families test their CO detectors once a month. Follow these five easy steps to test your CO detector now:
- Hold down your detector’s “test” button.
- Wait until you hear two beeps and release the button.
- Hold down the detector’s “test” button once more.
- Wait until you hear four beeps and release the button.
- If your sensor successfully follows this test sequence, it is in good working condition.
This testing method is for assessing the sound and batteries on your CO detector. It is not a test for determining how well your detector picks up carbon monoxide. You can purchase a test kit with a CO canister to safely expose the alarm to a high gas level and see if it works. It can take up to 30 minutes for the alarm to trigger.
Tips for Testing CO Detectors
When testing CO detectors, keep these tips in mind to follow the process thoroughly:
- If you have interconnected alarms, make sure they are all making sounds during testing. Ensure that you can hear the noise the detector makes in several rooms. You may also want to wear ear protection while testing, as the devices can be loud.
- If you have a home security system where outside professionals monitor your property, alert them of the test beforehand.
- After you’ve followed the directions, the CO detector should return to its original setting within minutes. If it doesn’t, try turning it off and on again.
- If available, have other people stand in different rooms in your home to listen for the CO detector alarm.
- Consistently clean carbon monoxide detectors to remove dust or debris, which can impact their function.
- Refrain from decorating or otherwise modifying the alarms in any capacity. Doing so can impair the device.
- Create a plan for a real emergency. While this isn’t part of the test, it can help to go over the plan for evacuating your house if the alarms were real. This is vital if you have multiple family members, children or pets.
How Often Should You Replace Carbon Monoxide Detector’s Batteries?
The most common recommendation for switching out your carbon monoxide detector’s batteries is when you adjust your clocks for daylight saving time. Doing so can be an effective way to remember to change batteries and keep the sensors functioning. Whether your carbon monoxide detector is hard-wired or a plug-in, there is usually a backup battery in case of power failure. Regularly changing and checking the batteries ensures your home will still have a working CO alarm during a power outage or failure.
The process for changing CO detector batteries is as follows:
- Grab a stool or ladder to reach the detector. Have a screwdriver on hand.
- Hold the CO detector in your hand and twist its face counter-clockwise.
- Use the screwdriver to help remove the battery inside the detector.
- Wait 30 seconds. Then, install the new battery, ensuring you match the positive and negative sides to the battery compartment layout.
- Put the device back together by aligning the two pieces and turning clockwise.
- Test the CO detector to confirm it is working properly before putting it back.
Even if the batteries are not the main source of power for your sensor, performing regular tests and replacements helps minimize risk and keeps you and your loved ones safer.
When Should You Replace Your CO detector?
If you have had your alarms for five to seven years, it may be safest to look for a carbon monoxide detector replacement. Some models may have specific beeping sequences to warn you that the detector is nearing the end of its life and needs replacing. Regardless, it may be beneficial to record the future date when you should replace your CO detector directly after installation.
Some detectors have expiration dates. If yours is coming up or has passed already, prepare to purchase a new one right away. In the future, you could attach a label somewhere you will see it, such as on your refrigerator, to remind yourself of when you got it and when it might be time to get a new one.
Carbon Monoxide Detector Requirements in Massachusetts
CO detectors are not only a matter of personal safety. In Massachusetts, they are a state law. Legislators mandated carbon monoxide detectors in 2005 after a young girl named Nicole Garofalo passed away from CO poisoning in her home. Known as “Nicole’s Law,” this legislation outlines several detector requirements for Massachusetts homes.
Types of Buildings That Need Detectors
According to Nicole’s Law, specific buildings with potential CO sources or attached garages require detectors. This list includes:
- All residential buildings
- Temporary residential buildings such as hotels and motels
- Institutional buildings like hospitals, nursing homes, rest homes and jails
- Group daycare facilities and after-school centers
Detector Installation Requirements
In addition to building requirements, the law outlines specific installation instructions for maximum safety. These include the location and types of acceptable detectors.
- Detector location: You must install CO detectors on each level of your home. On levels with sleeping areas, your detectors must be within 10 feet of bedroom doors. Attics and basements do not require detectors unless you use them as a living space.
- Detector type: Your detector could be battery-powered with battery monitoring or plug-in with a battery backup. It could also be hard-wired with a battery backup, low-voltage with secondary power or a suitable smoke detector and CO alarm combination. All sensors should have Underwriters’ Laboratories or International Approval Service endorsement.
Detector Requirements for Home Sellers
If you are selling your home, you will need to obtain a certificate of compliance for your carbon monoxide alarms. This certificate ensures your home has the proper detectors before the buyer moves in. Check if you need to replace your sensors, update as necessary and contact your local fire department to set up an inspection.
Contact Wayne Alarm Systems for CO Detectors in MA
For more than 50 years, Wane Alarm Systems has been providing convenient and trustworthy security solutions. We know your peace of mind is priceless. All our installers undergo background checks and receive a certificate of clearance, so you know you’re receiving secure service.
If you’re not sure how often to replace carbon monoxide detectors, we can send an expert to assess your equipment. Our experts can also install detectors in the most advantageous positions to ensure your home is safe and compliant. For more information or to chat with a Wayne Alarm Systems expert, contact us today!