Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and poisonous gas. It is often described as a silent killer because humans can hardly notice it until it is too late. Day-to-day house appliances, such as gas stoves and ovens, cloth dryers, water heaters, furnaces, or boilers, would produce carbon monoxide.
Therefore, having a carbon monoxide detector is crucial for your safety as it will help detect increased levels of CO within your surroundings. However, is carbon monoxide detector needed if no gas in your home?
Or is it a waste of your money because after all, no gas means reduced emission of carbon monoxide? Here is the thing:
It is a good idea to install a carbon monoxide detector within your property, despite not having any gas appliances. They say that you’re better safe than sorry. Not having a CO detector equals treading on dangerous grounds.
This is because carbon monoxide gas may creep from any fuel-burning appliances. Gas is not the only source of CO gas in your home; you, therefore, cannot ascertain that other appliances will not emit the poisonous CO gas.
Please read on to find out more about carbon monoxide detectors, the best type, and the dangers of inhaling carbon monoxide gas, among other frequently asked questions.
Why Every Home Should Have Carbon Monoxide Detectors
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asserts that at least 400 people die from accidental CO exposure in the United States yearly.
Statistics from Minnesota indicate that about 14 people succumb to unintentional CO poisoning every year.
The organization further estimates that approximately 300 people go to the emergency room annually to receive treatment for symptoms associated with carbon monoxide exposure.
Alarming, right? 400 doesn’t seem big of a number until it is you or your loved one that contributes to this statistic.
We don’t want this to happen, and this is enough call to action that every home should have a carbon monoxide detector.
You need a carbon monoxide detector in your home because, like the necessities; food, water, and shelter, a CO detector is a lifesaver!
The colorless and odorless properties of CO allow it to penetrate humans’ surroundings without it being easily noticed.
However, a CO detector does an excellent job by offering you early warnings against signs of increased carbon monoxide concentration in your home.
That’s not all; the carbon monoxide alarm will notify you when one of your appliances is not working as they are supposed. The alarm will warn people in the building before it becomes too late.
Besides, this necessity also lends an extra arm for children, the disabled, the elderly, and pets who cannot respond to alarms themselves.
A carbon monoxide detector will inform you of CO leaks before things get out of hand. Once you hear its sound, ensure that you open all windows and doors to allow the circulation of fresh air into the building.
Also, remove yourself from the room where there is a potential leak and immediately contact emergency services to come to your rescue.
Your carbon monoxide will likely last you about five to seven years. Once it reaches its end of life, we advise that you immediately replace it with a new one for optimum protection. Ensure that you hire a qualified and licensed technician to install or replace a carbon monoxide detector in your home.
Next time you find yourself debating whether you need to install a CO detector, question yourself on how certain you are that there is absolutely no device that can produce carbon monoxide within your home.
Why You Need CO Detectors Even Without Gas Appliances
We mentioned earlier that carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas. This makes it a sneaky gas, as it won’t announce its presence unless you have a carbon monoxide detector. Some people make a mistake by imagining they would smell carbon monoxide if it seeped into their houses. This is impossible.
Unlike carbon monoxide, you can detect the smell of gas within your household because manufacturers intentionally place a foul smell in them to alert people in case of a leakage. However, since they don’t produce carbon monoxide, it’s unlikely that anyone can artificially design their smell.
You will need a carbon monoxide detector even if you have no gas in your home because there are other gas sources, such as garages, small engines, and portable stoves. Let us analyze them!
Carbon Monoxide Comes from a Car in the Garage
Your car will produce carbon monoxide gas once you run it. Some houses have garages attached to them. If this is the case, it’s quite easy for carbon monoxide to penetrate your house.
However, if you leave a car running, the CO will only seep through. Unlikely as it seems, some people do. It is perilous to run an engine in an attached garage as the engine will raise the CO concentrations in a building in the shortest time possible.
The repercussions of this can be as fatal as death, as one would collapse even before noticing any symptoms of the gas.
Did you Know? Studies conducted by the CDC suggest that carbon monoxide concentration reaches the immediately dangerous to life and health concentration of about 1200 ppm within 7 minutes when a small 5-horsepower gasoline engine is run in a 10,000 cubic foot room.
One would challenge this argument by thinking, “but I can still open the garage’s doors to enhance the supply of fresh air which may dilute the CO concentration.” Well, this you may.
However, studies also show that running your vehicle for only two minutes with open garage doors raised the CO concentrations to 500 ppm. The same studies found that after 10 hours of backing the car out of the garage, there was still a measurable concentration of the gas.
How safe will you be if you choose not to have a CO detector, yet you have attached a garage to your house? The garage is a significant source of carbon monoxide.
Much as the CO leaking into the house is diluted, you may still experience poisoning if you inhale small amounts of CO for a prolonged period.
Therefore, every year, the 40,000 people treated for carbon monoxide poisoning in the U.S. is not coincidental. Some could have experienced this because of the described scenario.
Take Away: You still will need a carbon monoxide detector in your house even if you have no gas since the garage is a significant source of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carbon Monoxide from Small Engines or Generators
CDC reports that several people using gasoline-powered tools like high-pressure washers, concrete cutting saws, power trowels, floor buffers, welders, compressors, pumps, and generators in buildings have experienced carbon monoxide poisoning.
Here are real-life examples of people affected by CO from small engines and generators:
- A farm owner succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning after using an 11-horsepower, gasoline-powered pressure washer to clean his barn. He succumbed within 30 minutes.
- Five workers received treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning after using two 8 horse-power gasoline-powered pressure washers in an improperly ventilated underground parking garage.
- A plumber started experiencing severe headaches and dizziness, and started acting paranoidly after using a gasoline-powered concrete saw in a basement. He even had his doors and windows open and added a cooling fan for extra protection, yet he still experienced signs of CO poisoning.
Would these people be saved if there was a carbon monoxide detector within their vicinity? Most likely, yes!
Such examples are clear indicators that it is a bad idea to use fuel-burning engines in the house. CDC sternly warns against using generators inside homes or garages, even if you will have the windows open. This is because portable backup generators produce poisonous carbon monoxide gas.
If you have to use a generator, ensure you place it in an outdoor environment, at least 20 feet from your home, doors, and windows.
You need a CO detector in the house even if you do not have gas, as other fuel-burning appliances would emit this dangerous gas.
You could have portable stoves and heaters that produce carbon monoxide gas in the house.
Any fuel-burning appliances, like portable stoves, would result in the emission of carbon monoxide gas. For this reason, it is never a wise idea to operate a camp stove within your home. This is not the only one; several outdoor heaters should never be used indoors or in poorly ventilated areas.
Using stoves and heaters in the house makes you susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning. While we issue several warnings against using such appliances in the house, there are still people who would use them. This is why you will need to install the carbon monoxide detector.
Summarily, you need a carbon monoxide detector despite not having gas in your house because several other appliances would emit the poisonous gas. Now, let us look at potential sources of carbon monoxide within your home:
Carbon Monoxide Sources in the Home
Carbon monoxide is often produced whenever fuels such as wood, coal, propane, and natural gas do not undergo complete combustion. The partial burning prevents the production of enough oxygen. Instead, carbon monoxide gas is produced.
Listed below are fuel-burning appliances in your home that would cause carbon monoxide build-up:
- Clothes Dryers
- Water heaters
- Boilers or Furnaces
- Fireplaces (includes both gas and wood-burning fireplaces).
- Gas stoves and ovens
- Motor vehicles
- Grills, generators, power tools, lawn equipment
- Smoke from tobacco
- Wood stoves
Under normal circumstances, the carbon monoxide concentration levels in indoor areas should be the same as outdoors. For instance, carbon monoxide concentration in outdoor areas in Minneapolis/ St. Paul metro area range between 0.03-2.5 parts per million (ppm) within 8 hours.
The figure falls below the federal standard level of approximately nine ppm for CO in outdoor areas. Generally, urban areas experience higher concentrations of carbon monoxide than rural areas.
If the carbon monoxide concentration is higher indoors than outdoors, it is an indicator that there is a source of the gas either within your home or within a close range of your home.
You can also minimize the chances of carbon monoxide leaking by servicing your household appliances yearly. Also, avoid leaving a vehicle running inside the garage, regardless of whether it has the doors open or closed.
If you have to use a generator, use it in adequately ventilated areas outdoors, or approximately 20 feet away from all doors, windows, and vent openings.
Now that we know how essential a carbon monoxide detector is let us analyze its types.
What’s the Best Kind of Carbon Monoxide Alarm for Your Home?
Before installing a carbon monoxide detector, it is wise to research the best in the market that suits your unique needs. Carbon monoxide detectors are in two basic types: battery-powered and AC-powered.
Generally, AC-powered CO detectors are considered the best in the market, especially because some people are unlikely to remember to replace the batteries in their battery-operated detectors.
Carbon monoxide alarms are considered a home safety necessity as they detect dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.
Listed below are some of the best-recommended carbon monoxide detectors in the market:
- Kidde Nighthawk Plug-In AC/DC Carbon Monoxide Alarm Detector
Kidde Nighthawk is primarily designed to monitor an environment’s dangerous carbon monoxide concentration levels. Here are some of the reasons why it is at the top of the list:
- It will protect you from a power outage because it contains a 9V battery backup.
- Installing it is a piece of cake! You can easily plug it into any outlet within your home. You can also place the attached extension cord on a table.
- It is durable as it will last you ten years after the first installment. It will start signaling you the need for replacement after ten years. This saves you from the worry of the device failing to work. Besides, it has a backup battery that would come in handy if the power outlet fails you.
- Kidde Nighthawk has a unique yet so simple interface. It only contains two buttons: one used for testing the unit and the other to recall increased levels of CO concentration detected.
- The digital display on the Kidde nighthawk is unique as you will hardly find it in other carbon monoxide detectors. It offers you readings of the current CO levels and would help you in analyzing the beeps the device produces.
- It also has a volume loud enough to wake sleeping people in case of danger. This is a to-go-to property in any CO detector.
You’d want to trust this device as 95% of amazon reviewers have given t a four-star rating and above.
- Best Budget: First Alert CO400 Battery-Operated Carbon Monoxide Detector
The budget carbon monoxide detector is a small investment yet excellent for your peace of mind. It continuously monitors dangerous levels of carbon monoxide and will sound the alarm if such a condition arises. We love it for its audibility and a visual indicator in case of danger.
The first alert battery-operated smoke detector uses an electrochemical sensor, a proven form of detection. A 9-volt battery also powers the device, so you won’t have to worry about where you will locate the detector because of outlet proximity or other electrical wire connections.
We did not like this detector because it will only last you for about five years while other models will offer you a 10-year life expectancy.
- Best Plug-in: Kidde KN-COB-DP2 Carbon Monoxide Detector, AC Plug-In
Like other detectors, Kidde KN-COB-DP2 also protects against harmful CO concentrations.
Its ability to fast and easily install is quite admirable! All you need to do is plug it into a standard electrical outlet, and voila! You are protected.
The device is durable, as it will serve you for approximately ten years. This is the upper hand considering some devices in the market last about 5-7 years.
This Kidde model also has a battery backup which is essential for continuous monitoring without interruption in case of a power outage. Also, another applaudable feature is that it uses AA batteries, which are more available than the 9-volt batteries used in other CO detectors.
The device has an 85-decibel alarm sound when it detects increased CO levels. This sound is loud and safe as it will instantly wake you up in a life-threatening situation.
However, this Kidde model does not have a digital display. Therefore, you will be forced to consult the manufacturer’s manual to understand the interpretation of the small color-coded signal.
- Best Smart: Google Nest Protect 2nd Generation
A smart carbon detector is a perfect contemporary device that integrates with your smart home setup to offer protection. Google’s nest protects an easy-to-use carbon detector that monitors the concentration of carbon monoxide within your environment.
It doubles up as a smoke alert (low smoke levels), which will protect you from a fire outbreak. Interestingly, you do not need to use a physical device to silence it when the alarm sounds. It is so convenient that you can silence and control it within its app on your smartphone.
While more features of this detector make it user-friendly, we’d rank its safety benefits at the top of the list. Most carbon monoxide detectors include a testing button that would require you to press and hold to check their functionality, Nest Protect does not require all this effort!
It is designed to test the batters and sensors over 400 times daily silently. It also tests the audible alarm function once a month. It will sound the speaker and the horn within the unit to confirm that it is functional.
Another unique feature is its ability to determine whether the battery is sufficient. You will notice the light ring of the unit change into green to indicate that the battery is sufficient.
This ultimately saves you from the surprise false alarm that would sound in the middle of the night. Besides, the device will notify you of the exact source of carbon monoxide levels by alternating between audible and voice alerts.
Nest Protect is a flexible make as you can find it as a battery-operated or hardwired unit. It caters to its clients’ different needs, which is impressive! However, we prefer the hardwired option because of the device’s several features that can quickly drain its batteries. It’s a no wonder it utilizes 6 AA cells.
Google’s Nest Protect is a durable detector lasting up to 10 years.
However, one feature we don’t like about it is the manufacturer’s limited warranty. While it is meant to last you ten years, the manufacturer only offers a 2-year warranty.
- Best Hardwired: First Alert BRK CO5120BN Hardwired Carbon Monoxide Detector
A hardwired carbon monoxide detector will integrate into your home’s electrical system. You will not need an outlet to use it, nor will you need to worry about frequent battery replacement.
I recommend the First Alert CO5120BN since you can connect it with 18 other First Alert devices. It also includes a 9-volt backup battery. These two features are essential safety considerations that ensure you will be well notified if the carbon monoxide levels are above average.
This device can notice CO levels as low as 30 parts per million which will notify you even before you begin experiencing the symptoms (symptoms are noticeable at 70 ppm).
The alarm is also desirably loud, as high CO levels will trigger an 85-decibel alarm. Besides the audio alert, the device will also flash a small red light in a specific pattern when the alarm is triggered.
However, this light will keep flashing even when the CO levels drop. This will require you to manually clear the alarm by testing the unit.
Several carbon monoxide detectors will offer you maximum protection against CO poisoning. You’d want to consult your technician on the best device compatible with your home and state’s rules.
What are the Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?
You will experience carbon monoxide poisoning when you inhale fumes containing CO.
Red blood cells are tasked with transporting oxygen throughout your body, which sustains the life of your organs. However, red blood cells absorb carbon monoxide faster than oxygen.
This is why when CO levels are high, it will displace the oxygen in your body and replace it with carbon monoxide gas.
If you breathe too much CO, such body organs as the brain and heart won’t get enough oxygen.
The CO gas will also combine with proteins in your body, leading to damage to your cells and organs.
The following are the most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning: as described by the centers for disease control and prevention:
- Mild headaches
- Mild Nausea
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain/ chest tightness
- Dizziness and weakness
- Losing consciousness/ fainting/ passing out
- Poor muscle coordination
The mentioned symptoms will vary in intensity, depending on the amount of carbon monoxide you inhale. The more you inhale, the more severe the system and the more fatal it becomes.
NOTE: While everyone is at risk of experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning, other groups are at a higher risk than others.
These include developing fetuses, infants, older adults, those living in high altitudes, those suffering from chronic heart disease, anemia, or other respiratory complications, and people with high levels of CO in their bodies, like smokers.
Also, carbon monoxide poisoning can happen at any time. However, the risk is even higher during winter due to poorly maintained heating systems or people warming up their cars in their garages.
Can You Get Carbon Monoxide In an All-Electric-House?
You will unlikely have any gas appliances in an electric home. We can categorize gas leakages among some of the notorious causes of carbon monoxide poisoning. Perhaps this is why someone may consider an all-electric house.
However, it would help if you got a carbon monoxide detector in an all -electric-house.
The absence of gas does not indicate the absence of this poisonous, invisible, odorless, and scentless gas. There are other sources of CO other than your gas appliances.
For instance, your car running in a closed garage, wood, and coal burning appliances like a fireplace, a propane grill on an enclosed deck. For this reason, it is still a good idea to install a CO detector, despite living in an all-electric house.
How Long Does It Take to Show Signs of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?
Carbon monoxide poisoning will manifest itself in different ways depending on the following factors:
- The levels of exposure and the time of exposure (the concentration of carbon monoxide inhaled and the longevity of the CO exposure)
- Your current health. You will likely experience the poisoning faster if you have underlying health conditions such as anemia, heart disease, and respiratory complications.
- Being pregnant also makes you more susceptible to poisoning.
- Age is also a crucial factor, as older adults and infants will experience more severe symptoms.
Take Away: The CO concentration level in the environment heavily determines how the poisoning occurs. For instance, a 400 PPM concentration will manifest poisoning through headaches within an hour or two. If it lasts three to five hours, the same concentration will result in effects as dire as unconsciousness and death.
As soon as you start experiencing the symptoms of CO poisoning, get out of the risk environment, and to an area with fresher air. Ensure that you open all windows and doors to dilute the CO concentration. Also, call 911 for help. You can also visit the emergency room.
A carbon monoxide detector is a crucial safety necessity within your home. Gas leakages are listed among the leading factors for carbon monoxide poisoning in a household. However, what if you have no gas appliances?
Is Carbon Monoxide Detector Needed If No Gas?
The answer is yes. You need the detector considering there are several other ways through which the CO gas can seep into your house, for instance, running your car in your home garage.
As we said, carbon monoxide gas is colorless, tasteless, scentless, and highly poisonous. You cannot quickly tell of its presence unless you have the CO detector.
Every home needs a carbon monoxide detector to alert them in case of increasing CO levels.
Good luck installing or replacing your carbon monoxide detector this winter season. Also, let us know any questions you would like addressed in our articles.