Feature Articles - Housing
Carbon monoxide detectors should be replaced every five years
Eileen Yager, Communications Officer, Extension &
Ag Information, University of Missouri
Homeowners may be surprised to learn that they need to replace the
carbon monoxide detector they bought just a few years ago.
"Carbon monoxide detectors are only good for about five years," said
Michael Goldschmidt, a housing and environmental design specialist with
University of Missouri Extension.
The arrival of cooler weather brings increased risk for carbon monoxide
poisoning as people kick on natural gas and propane furnaces. "One of
the most common areas where carbon monoxide occurs is the furnace and
the flue," Goldschmidt said.
Detectors use an electrochemical element to measure the carbon monoxide
levels in the air, he said.
"After five years, the carbon monoxide detector can function improperly,"
he said. "It could ring when there isn't a high level of carbon monoxide
or not ring when carbon monoxide levels are high."
Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms include headaches, tightness of
chest, dizziness, fatigue, confusion and breathing difficulties. Severe
exposure to carbon monoxide can cause brain damage and death, Goldschmidt
Unintentional carbon dioxide poisoning results in about 2,100 deaths
per year, according to researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control,
who believe more than half of those deaths could be prevented with carbon
Gas furnaces, as well as gas-powered water heaters, stoves and other
appliances, generate small amounts of carbon monoxide as a byproduct
"If they are not working properly, they will produce large amounts"
of the odorless, colorless gas, he said. "We recommend that you get
the furnace checked every year."
Homeowners should install carbon monoxide detectors, which will sound
an alarm when carbon monoxide levels are high, on each level of their
house. Detectors should be placed outside of bedrooms, Goldschmidt said.
"The room could have dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, and you
would be exposed to dangerous levels before the detector rings," he
Carbon monoxide detectors should have a battery back up and be tested
monthly. Detectors also should be tested after power outages. Those
with a number read out should be reset before testing.
If a carbon monoxide detector goes off, get out immediately and then call the fire department. "Even the time you take to open a window is enough to be exposed to dangerous levels," warns Goldschmidt.
Source: Michael Goldschmidt, email@example.com
Last update: Monday, November 03, 2014