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,
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 monoxide detectors.
Gas furnaces, as well as gas-powered water heaters, stoves and
other appliances, generate small amounts of carbon monoxide as a
byproduct of combustion.
"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,
"The room could have dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, and
you would be exposed to dangerous levels before the detector rings,"
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," he said.
Source: Michael Goldschmidt email@example.com
Last update: Monday, February 15, 2010