Make your Home Safer with a Carbon Monoxide Alarm

by Jon Nunan

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As science progresses, the populous becomes more informed about substances and situations that affect our bodies. Our habits involving foods, medicines, and even building materials change as we learn more about what is healthy and what is harmful. In recent years, some cases of illness that previously would have been identified as a virus or food poisoning have been attributed to a substance called carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas; it is also deadly in high amounts and unhealthy in smaller doses. Installing a carbon monoxide alarm is one of the best methods of making sure you and your family are not being exposed to toxic levels of this common, deadly gas.

Where Carbon Monoxide Comes From
Carbon monoxide can occur quite naturally when organic substances are burned. It is also present at certain times when organic matter decomposes. The main reason that people install carbon monoxide alarms in their homes, however, is that this gas is produced in large amounts when fossil fuels are burned.

Many people are under the misconception that the improper burning of gasoline (letting a car warm up in a closed garage, exposure to excessive amounts of automobile exhaust, etc.) is the most likely way to be affected by carbon monoxide. While car exhaust is certainly lethal, many people are exposed to high levels of the gas from sources other than gasoline. In fact, many cases of over exposure occur in residences, rather than on the road.

Any organic fuel that is burning inefficiently can produce carbon monoxide. Gasoline, natural gas, oil, coal, wood, and other very common combustibles may all produce high levels of carbon monoxide.

What Carbon Monoxide Alarms Do
Much like a fire alarm, a carbon monoxide alarm will sound whenever it senses that too high a concentration of the gas exists in a given area. Unlike a smoke detector, however, a carbon monoxide alarm cannot be easily dismissed by using your other senses. If the alarm goes off, it's time to get out of wherever you are.

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Choosing the Right Alarm for your Home
There are quite a few different carbon monoxide alarms and detectors on the market, which makes finding the best one more difficult. The easiest way to identify one that will do its job well is to make sure it is certified. Europe and the U.S. each have their own standards for certification. Great Britain also has its own set of certification standards. Each will put their stamp of approval on products that identify when carbon monoxide reaches a certain level, but the different standards set the mark at different levels.

The Best Way
To truly ensure that your home's level of carbon monoxide isn't dangerously high, alarm/detectors should be placed in central locations around the home. This, however, is not the only precaution that needs to be taken. Every year, have your fuel burning systems checked to make sure they are running at their top efficiency. When purchasing any new heating equipment, check the label to see if an independent laboratory has tested it. Additionally, when buying a home, have it inspected by a professional so you'll know that the heating system complies with today's standards.

Jon Nunan is a freelance writer who draws on his experience in construction, ranging from landscaping to log home building, for his articles on home improvement.