If you ever rented an apartment or owned a home, you know that a carbon monoxide detector is required on your property. Unfortunately, it often gets mistaken for a fire detector. But, what does a carbon monoxide detector do, and how does it work? First of all, let’s touch on what carbon monoxide is, and then we will tell you what a detector does and how it all works. Carbon monoxide or CO is found in fumes produced any time you burn fuel in cars or trucks, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, or furnaces. It is odorless and colorless and it is powerful enough to poison you AND at your detriment, kill you or your loved ones as well. In recent months, a story about a young 9-year-old in Kerrville, OK went boating with his family. He spent most of his day water skiing behind his family’s boat and ingested a large amount of carbon monoxide which eventually poisoned him enough to take his life. It can happen that quickly and with no warning. This is why we are required to have a carbon monoxide detector in our homes.
How does carbon monoxide poison you?
Colin McDonald at CNET created a very informative article about this topic. He stated that “carbon monoxide is a stealthy killer. An amount as low as 10 parts per million (ppm) can cause headaches. At 600 ppm levels can quickly lead to unconsciousness and, eventually, death. That’s how it kills most people: it puts them to sleep, then kills them while they sleep. The effect of low concentrations mounts over time, with even a very low concentration causing adverse effects if you are exposed for long enough. That’s because of the sneaky way it harms the body.” He goes on to say that “carbon monoxide blocks the ability of your blood to carry oxygen, replacing the spot that oxygen takes on the hemoglobin in your red blood cells. This iron-rich compound is how your blood carries oxygen around the body, and carbon monoxide bonds to hemoglobin much tighter than oxygen alone. Over time, as more and more hemoglobin is blocked from doing its job by carbon monoxide, your blood just can’t carry enough oxygen to keep your tissues going, especially the brain. They begin to fail, causing headaches, nausea, unconsciousness, and eventually, death.”
So, what does a carbon monoxide detector do, and how does it work?
A CO detector is an electronic device that has the ability to detect the presence of carbon monoxide and provide an early warning via an alarm. Inside the carbon monoxide alarm is a small sensor with three electrodes on it. These three electrodes lead into a container of a chemical called the electrolyte. This container is gas permeable, meaning that gas from the atmosphere can pass freely into and out of it. A small voltage is applied between two of the electrodes (called the working and the reference electrodes). When CO enters the sensor, it reacts with the oxygen also present in the atmosphere. It then releases an electron, creating a small current between the electrodes. Some sensors use electrodes coated with platinum or other metals that catalyze the reaction of carbon monoxide and oxygen, helping it to happen quicker than it would normally.
Should the alarm sound, it is of the utmost importance that you get outside to fresh air. No matter what time it is. Seconds in this instance matter and this alarm will save you and your loved ones’ lives.
Where should you install a carbon monoxide detector?
In our professional opinion and with your safety as the utmost priority, we recommend that you have a carbon monoxide detector installed in every sleeping area, common area, and on every level of your home. We know that may seem like overkill. However, this is a life or death matter. With CO being undetectable by the naked human eye or it being odorless, you can never be too careful. We recommend that you install the detector on the wall or high on the ceiling. It will work just the same since CO is heavier than the air that we breathe. In this instance, it is better to be safe than sorry!
How do you know it’s working or not?
It is important to test all of your carbon monoxide detectors and fire alarms regularly. At least once a month. If it isn’t working. It’s often a simple battery check and swap out. If the batteries are rechargeable, you just need to recharge them. We recommend setting up a calendar reminder once a month. You NEED to test the detector to make sure that they work!
Hopefully, in this article, we’ve answered the questions: what does a carbon monoxide detector do, and how does it work. We are thankful that Qolsys has created such an intuitive and important device that can connect to your smart home network. Our device is operating 24/7. Whether the system is on or not. It connects directly to the IQ Panel 2, and will inform you of exactly if and when the danger is present in your home. If you are curious about our smart carbon monoxide detectors or are ready to get this installation on the schedule in your home or business, please give us a call at (844) 901-2123.
As always, we stand ready to serve and protect you and your family. To the Broken Arrow, Oklahoma family that lost their son, we send our sincere condolences to your family. Your loss is felt by our entire team.