Carbon Monoxide Detectors

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), carbon monoxide, also sometimes referred to as the “Invisible Killer’, is responsible for more than 150 deaths in the US every year. On top of that, 9 out of 10 accidents involving carbon monoxide poisoning occur at homes. These statistics signal the importance of carbon monoxide detectors in homes as it could be extremely difficult to detect otherwise and can affect breathing and circulatory systems.

CO Detectors - How Do They Work?

Upon detection of carbon monoxide, CO detectors are designed to trigger alarms. The process of detection varies with the kind of detector and the concentration of carbon monoxide. Some detectors are designed to detect carbon monoxide based on a chemical reaction that causes change of color; some are based on electrochemical reactions that are designed to produce current to trigger alarms.  While others semiconductor based sensors may detect carbon monoxide presence by changes in electrical resistance.

There are three different types of detectors available with regards to power supply: plug-in, battery-operated and hardwired which is connected to the home wiring system. However, some detectors come with features like current CO-level display or peak-CO memory buttons; while others may sound an 85-decibel horn in addition to verbal warnings.

CO Detector Location

In order to maximize the effectiveness of CO detectors, consider the following pointers when deciding their location:

  1. Carbon monoxide is less dense than air and is usually found with warm, rising air so the detectors should be installed on a wall about 5 feet above the floor.

  2. Detectors may be installed on the ceiling.

  3. Detectors should not be placed near a fireplace or flame-producing appliance.

  4. Detectors should be kept out of the way and reach of pets and children.

  5. A separate detector should be placed on each floor.

  6. Carbon Monoxide detectors should be placed near the sleeping area especially in bedrooms.

Heat Sensors

Heat sensors are designed to detect rise in temperatures. There are two basic types: the traditional thermocouple sensors and the relatively modern silicon-based sensors. The thermocouple sensors are made of two metals that are welded together. When the temperature rises, the difference between the expansions in each metal is designed to produce an electric current. This is used to measure the electric field to determine the temperature because the voltage generated will be temperature-dependent.

Silicon temperature sensors consist of integrated circuits that can process signals in a unit integrated with the sensor. The interaction between the electricity and the particles of the metal that results from the electricity being sent through the silicon is designed to indicate a change in temperature. This allows them to operate over a much wider temperature spectrum as compared to traditional sensors.

Smoke Detectors

A smoke detector is designed to detect fire or smoke and consists of two basic parts: the smoke detector component and an audible alarm component. The detector component is designed to reliably detect the presence of smoke or flame and trigger an audible alarm as a result. The alarm is usually loud enough to be heard and recognized. There are primarily two kinds of smoke sensors: ionization detectors and photoelectric detectors. The former is designed to detect smoke when it interrupts the ionizing process by neutralizing charged particles. The latter is designed to detect smoke as a result of blockage in light detected by LEDs.

According to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), fire departments were called to an estimated 80,100 CO related incidents in 2010. This was a 96 percent increase from 2003. The reason behind this was the early detection with the help of Carbon Monoxide detectors.



Q:What kind of carbon monoxide detector should be used?

A:There are a number of carbon monoxide detectors available in the market; however, the quality of each detector varies from another. You may look for different features in a carbon monoxide detector such as reliability, battery life, and cost of ownership. It is good to ask your family and friends and read user reviews online, before making the final choice.

Q:Should carbon monoxide detectors be near heat?

A:Carbon monoxide detectors should be installed according to the manufacturer's instructions. It is good to avoid placing carbon monoxide detectors in locations that are near heating vents or that can be covered by draperies or furniture. It is also not recommended that you install carbon monoxide alarms in kitchens or above fuel burning appliances.

Q:Is it best to place a carbon monoxide sensor near each sleeping area and living area?

A:Carbon monoxide sensors should be placed outside each sleeping area in a house. They should be placed on each level of the house and also in the basement. You could need a number of carbon monoxide detectors, depending on the layout of your home. It is better to have more detectors in place to keep the home safe from any kind of smoke hazard.

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