Half of all unintentional deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning could be prevented with the proper use of carbon monoxide detectors, which are designed to alarm when carbon monoxide levels rise. Because carbon monoxide is odorless and invisible, a detector is especially important to protect you and your family.
A carbon monoxide detector is not a smoke detector and a smoke detector cannot detect carbon monoxide. Both are recommended.
What are carbon monoxide detectors and how do they work?
Carbon monoxide detectors are designed to go off before you experience symptoms. All UL-approved carbon monoxide detectors are designed to sound an alarm when carbon monoxide levels rise above 100 parts per million (ppm). However, the alarm must also sound if carbon monoxide levels remain at 70 ppm for one hour. The alarm will sound quicker the higher the carbon monoxide level — in as little as four minutes if levels reach 400 ppm, which is a level associated with frontal headaches within one to two hours of exposure. At levels of 3,200 ppm, symptoms can occur in five to ten minutes and death within 30 minutes.
All UL-listed carbon monoxide alarms also have a manual silence button, but if elevated carbon monoxide levels continue, the alarm is designed to resound every six minutes. These detectors should have an 85-decibel alarm, which is loud enough to wake up you and your family.
Should your alarm go off, never ignore it. Immediately turn off all fuel-burning devices and potential sources of carbon monoxide, open the doors and windows to bring fresh air into the building, and get everyone out. Contact New Mexico Gas Company at 888-NM-GAS-CO (888-664-2726). Be sure a qualified service technician has fixed the problem and ensured that the building is safe before restarting appliances or re-entering the building.
What to look for when buying a carbon monoxide detector
When choosing a carbon monoxide detector, look only for products that are certified to meet the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) 2034 Standard (1998 revision). Check the package for the UL symbol and the phrase “single station carbon monoxide alarm.” The manufacturing date of the model should be after January 1, 2000, when the revised UL standards were enacted.
Select a detector that is battery-operated or has a battery backup to ensure it will work during a power outage. Look for models that have a test button, which will allow you to check the alarm and make sure it is working properly.
Installing a carbon monoxide detector
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that you install a carbon monoxide detector outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. Please follow the manufacturers’ instructions carefully for proper placement.
Maintaining your carbon monoxide detector
It is recommended that you test your carbon monoxide alarms once a month and replace dead batteries. A helpful rule of thumb is to change the batteries twice a year, with daylight savings time. Battery-only detectors will need battery changes more frequently than plug-in detectors with battery back-up.
Replace detectors every five years unless the manufacturer specifies a shorter or longer life.
For more information:
Carbon Monoxide Detectors: What To Look For from Consumer Research
Placement of Carbon Monoxide Detectors from Home Safe