Having carbon monoxide detectors in your home is a critical first step toward protecting yourself from the hazards that carbon monoxide (CO) can cause. Once installed, if you hear your carbon monoxide detector beeping, you need to know what to do — and fast.
Carbon monoxide detectors have come a long way. Better technology has led to highly sensitive alarms that will quickly alert homeowners to the presence of CO. There are two broad types of detectors: standard detectors that you would find at the home center. These units are less sensitive and therefore less costly. They will alarm when higher levels of CO are present. The second type is a low level CO monitor and these units are much more sophisticated and therefore more costly. They will alert at high levels too, but before that they will also notify you when CO levels are starting to build — usually with a digital read out and different alert sound. Low level exposure to CO over long periods can result in flu like symptoms. Of course for children and older people the problems can be far worse. Low level monitors are often not available in home centers, but more likely from your professional HVAC contractor.
The presence of high levels of CO in your home ought to cause your CO monitor to alarm. This is an extremely dangerous situation, and it’s what your detectors were designed for.
Anytime your CO detector goes off, take it seriously:
- Get out of the house.
- Assess the health conditions of family members once outside the home.
- Call 911 from your cell phone or from a neighbor’s phone.
- 911 dispatchers will generally send fire department personnel to the scene, as they have the necessary equipment to test for carbon monoxide.
If your detectors go off frequently, you might be getting false readings. Two common causes of false readings:
- You have a cigarette smoker in the home. Cigarettes give off carbon monoxide.
- Artificial components, such as lighted incense or air fresheners, can trick your detectors with low levels of CO emitted into the air.
When homeowners experience multiple false readings, it can become easy to dismiss future situations when carbon monoxide detector beeping occurs. But it’s important to avoid becoming lax, because your safety could be seriously compromised when the detector does report a truly dangerous situation. Finally, like all devices, CO monitors have a life expectancy and need to be replaced over time. Check with your particular manufacturer but often five years is a typical time frame.