‘Indoor Air Quality’
For your family’s health
Most heating and cooling systems still use a basic air filter. These filters were originally designed to protect the equipment and not the people served by the equipment. The average air filter is only capable of removing 3–5% of the particles that pass through it. Today, however, there are several types of permanent air filters available in various efficiencies that can help you filter the air in your home. If you suffer from allergies, asthma, hay fever or other breathing difficulties, there is an air filter that can help you. We can even provide you with the same type of air filter used in hospital operating rooms.
To understand why many of today’s health problems can be caused by the home you live in, you need to look back a few years to see what caused this to happen. You see, during the energy crisis of the early 1970s, highly insulated “tight” homes became popular because of their potential to reduce energy costs.
Within a few years, however, complaints started to arise, due to health, and excessive moisture issues caused by indoor pollution, and associated moisture problems within these homes.
In the late 1980s and early 90s, indoor air quality became a nationally recognized issue. Even today, newer and more energy-efficient homes seemed predisposed to the problem. In addition, they retain more humidity and airborne pollutants, which causes longer life-spans, and more productive cycles of microbial activity within the home, such as mold, germs, bacteria and viruses.
This greater activity and concentration of these airborne contaminants, equates to more allergic reactions, and sickness within families, for longer periods of time.
MOLD: A SURVIVOR
Why is mold so difficult to control? Mold is at the bottom of the food chain. It thrives on very little, grows rapidly, and produces spores, volatile organic com-pounds, and other toxins. One organism can multiply to trillions in less than three weeks. When given the right conditions, mold can occur anywhere; in homes, schools, workplaces, entertainment centers, vehicles, etc.
The interior of your ductwork and air conditioning equipment, provides an ideal environment for mold growth — especially in the air conditioners inside drain-pan where it is dark, damp, and filled with nutrients. The result can be like blowing air over a swamp or through a sewer and then into your home, vehicle, and workplace.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 60% of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) problems and allergies may be mold-related. Some IAQ diagnosticians and practitioners today say the figure may be as high as 80%. The increased usage of air conditioning systems almost directly parallels the increase of allergies and IAQ problems.
As mold and bacteria grow on coils and in drain pans, they are disseminated through the ducts to occupied spaces. Some mold products (toxins) produce serious and sometimes life-threatening reactions, including allergy, asthma, hypersensitivity, pneumonitis, and in some extreme cases even bleeding lung disease.
Additionally, mold creates a troublesome maintenance problem. Its activity results in dirty coils, a loss of air-flow, loss of heat exchange efficiency, dirty and sometimes plugged drain pans, and excessive energy use.
USING UVC TECHNOLOGY
Our company has found that the most successful way to handle system mold is through Ultraviolet (U.V.)germicidal lights. These U.V. systems are a recent breakthrough in protecting the health of a home.
Ultraviolet light in the “C” band (UVC) has been used for more than 65 years to kill microorganisms in hospitals, barber shops, laboratories, pharmaceutical plants, and at the nation’s Center for Disease Control. Residential ultraviolet units have been independently tested and proved to be effective in the constantly moving air environments of heating and cooling systems, killing mold and bacteria quickly and effectively. The UVC energy attacks the organism’s DNA and either destroys it immediately or prevents it from reproducing.
For most people, the original motivation for installing the lights is to abate IAQ complaints and/or allergies. However, they are also pleased to learn that many hidden odors are also eliminated with U.V. technology.
Dirt, mold, bugs, mites, and other “stuff” are all living in your duct system. We can get rid of it all with our Total Source Removal cleaning process. You will be able to see for yourself all of the dirt and debris that we remove from your duct system. More importantly, through the use of remote video inspection cameras, you will also be able to see how clean your duct system is when we finish cleaning.
The best way to humidify your home
With the proper level of humidity in your home, you will feel more comfortable and breathe easier. You can eliminate that dry eye, nose and throat feeling you have when you wake up in the morning. Humidity also reduces or eliminates static electricity. It protects the investment in your home and your furniture because proper humidity prevents wood from cracking and peeling.
A flow-through humidifier can be easily added to any forced air heating system. The advantage with this type of humidifier is that it provides humidity without breeding or spreading mold or mildew. This is in contrast to the humidifiers that use a reservoir where water can stagnate–a perfect environment for mold and mildew growth. A flow-through humidifier is easy to maintain. It has no moving parts and is designed to operate with no mineral or mold buildup.
Occupational Safety & Health Administration, USA (OSHA) (for industrial situations) -
Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL, by TWA) – 50 ppm, 8 hrs.
Old PEL Standard (by TWA) – 35 ppm, 8 hrs.
Threshold Limit Value (TLV, by TWA) – 25 ppm (29 mg/cu. m)
(recommended by Amer. Conf. of Governmental & Industrial Hygienists ACGIH)
Ceiling (max. value, 15 min.) – 200 ppm (229 mg/cu. m)
MI Occup. Safety & Health Admin. (MIOSHA) -
PEL (Industry, by TWA) – 35 ppm, 8 hrs. (38.5 mg/cu. m)
PEL (Construction, by TWA) – 50 ppm, 8 hrs. (55 mg/cu. m)
Ceiling (max. value) – 200 ppm (229 mg/cu. m)
Environmental Protection Agency, USA (EPA) -
Domestic, outdoor air, all ages (TWA) – 9 ppm*, 8 hrs.
Domestic, outdoor air, all ages (TWA) – 35 ppm, 1 hr.
World Health Organization (WHO) -
Domestic, outdoor air, all ages (TWA) – 9 ppm*, 8 hrs.
Am. Soc. of Heating, Refrigeration & Air Cond. Engineers (ASHRAE) –
Indoor air (leakage at a heat register) – 9 ppm
American Gas Association -
Indoor air (leakage at a heat register) – 15 pm
Making a diagnosis of CO poisoning is crucial, as acute high level CO poisoning can be fatal in just a few minutes. The symptoms are usually multiple, many are non-specific, and some are vague. They can involve many of the body systems. Please be aware that the symptom list below is not complete and that they often do not follow this rank ordering at presentation. Moreover, many of the more severe symptoms (eg. below ataxia) are only seen with acute high level CO exposure.
Symptoms in Order of Increasing Severity of CO Poisoning
Dizziness on exertion
Dyspnea on exertion
Cutaneous vessel dilation
Mental Confusion, difficulty with thinking
Fine manual dexterity abnormal
- Retinal hemorrhages
- Syncope, collapse
- Tachypnea (increased ventilation), further tachycardia
- Lactic acidosis
- Cheyne Stokes ventilation
- Coma, convulsions
- Cardiac and ventilatory depression
- Cardiorespiratory failure (death)
Making the Diagnosis
Making a diagnosis of CO poisoning is crucial, since the condition can be fatal in just a few minutes. The symptoms are widely varied, many are non-specific, and can involve many body systems.
Victims often believe, or are led to believe, that they are have the “flu”, gastroenteritis, etc. CO poisoning is very often misdiagnosed clinically as:
- Psychiatric illness
- Heart disease
- Food poisoning
There are clues that signal the likelihood of CO poisoning:
- If everyone in the family suddenly becomes ill with some of the above symptoms.
- If the victim is in a situation where he or she may be exposed to high CO levels.
- If symptoms are relieved when the victim moves to a different location / into fresh air.
As a noted emergency room physician has said, “the standard of care for carbon monoxide poisoning may well be misdiagnosis“
Table of Commonly Seen Symptoms
The following is a list of symptoms which have been applied mainly to acute CO poisoning. Many sources suggest they can be closely related to blood COHb level. Please note that in practice, severity of symptoms DO NOT correlate well with COHb level. Thus, any conclusions about COHb from symptoms, or vice versa, should be drawn with the greatest caution!
- Decreased tolerance for exercise in persons with existing pulmonary disease
- Decreased angina threshold
- Decreased threshold for visual stimuli
- Decreased visual acuity
- Severe headache
- Increased respiration
- Impaired judgement
- Visual disturbance
- Decreased awareness
- Cardiac irregularities
- Muscle weakness
- Usually death in a few minutes
|70% -and up
Lesions Resulting From CO Poisoning
Acute- Cerebral edema and hemorrhages
Chronic- Necrotic lesions in basal ganglia and demyelination
Acute- Myocardial necrosis
Chronic- Myocardial infarcts
Primary- Pulmonary edema
Secondary- Aspiration pneumonia in comatose patients
Lobar necrosis with chronic repeated exposure
Parenchymatous degeneration leading to necrosis
Intramuscular hemorrhages, swelling, and rhabdomyolysis
Marrow hypertrophy in chronic CO-hypoxia
Erythema, blisters, and gangrene
A Classification of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Based on Clinical Features
|Clinical Degree of Intoxication
|I – Mild
||Headache, vomiting, tachycardia, no disturbances of consciousness
|II – Moderate
||Disturbances or loss of consciousness without other neurological symptoms, tachycardia, nocioceptive reflexes still intact
|III – Severe
||Loss of consciousness, intense muscular tonus, pathological neurological symptoms, tachycardia and tachypnea, circulatory and respiratory disturbances not observed
|IV – Very Severe
||Loss of consciousness, clinical signs of central nervous system damage, circulatory and respiratory disturbances
Comment: Many many different classifications of severity of CO poisoning are in existence. Just as COHb level does not correlate well with short-term symptomatology or with the longterm effects, the symptoms and effects of CO poisoning do not fit easily into discrete classes as the above suggests. This table is presented as just one possible approach to classification of the effects of CO poisoning, but not necessarily one embraced by the website writer.
Diagnostic Tests that may be Useful in CO Poisoning
- Carboxyhemoglobin Saturation
- other Arterial blood gases and pH
- Complete blood count
- Serum glucose and lactic acid concentration
- Serum electrolytes, and urea nitrogen and creatinine concentrations
- Urine analysis
- Electrocardiogram and echocardiogram
- Chest X-ray
- Serum creatine kinase (CK) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) activities
- Serum aspartate and alanine transferase (SGOT, SGPT) activities
- Serum myoglobin concentration
- Neuropsychologic screening test
- Drug screening
- Cerebral computed tomography
Note: With the exception of neuropsychologic evaluation, most of the above tests are usually only of value in acute, higher-level CO poisoning. In such instances, the first eight tests should be done as quickly as possible after presentation.
What to Do About CO Poisoning
In the early days of mining, caged canaries were hung in the tunnels. The birds, being so small, were especially susceptible to poisonous gases because of their high metabolism and ventilation rate. If the bird died, it was an alarm telling the miners get out of the mine. Now electronic CO detectors are available for the home.
It is best to avoid exposure to sources of CO
- Make sure fuel-burning equipment is working correctly and is properly exhausted. This includes furnaces, hot water heaters, and propane and gasoline powered vehicles used indoors.
- Stop smoking.
- Don’t leave your car running in the garage, especially if it is attached to your house. It could poison you in the car, and CO could get into the house and afflict others.
- If you are in heavy traffic, keep your windows rolled up. This is especially true if you are caught in traffic in an enclosed space like a tunnel.
Management of CO Poisoning – Quick Points
- Remove victim from the site of CO exposure
- oxygen immediately – If possible take a blood sample for COHb before this is done
- Use endotracheal intubation in comatose patients to facilitate ventilation
- Remove the patient to a hyperbaric facility when indicated (if at all possible)
- Keep the patient calm and avoid physical exertion by the patient
- Manage complications: e.g. electrolyte imbalance, brain edema, cardiac arrhythmias
Guidelines for Management
- Remove patient from the site of CO exposure
- Immediately administer high-flow, 100% oxygen through a tight-fitting mask
- If possible take a blood sample for COHb before O2 is given
- Consider endotracheal intubation to facilitate ventilation in comatose patients
- In cases of severe poisoning, or in presence of unconsciousness or neurological signs, treat with hyperbaric oxygen
- Keep patient calm to reduce metabolic rate and oxygen consumption and avoid physical exertion by the patient; insulate body and warm, if hypothermic
- Look for signs of cardiovascular and neuropsychiatric dysfunction
- Manage complications: e.g. electrolyte imbalance, cardiac arrhythmias
- Consider supporting cardiovascular function with inotropes, antiarrhythmics, etc.
- Consider treating cerebral edema with hyperosmotics such as mannitol, and with steroids, to lower intracranial pressure and restore brain blood flow
- Treat pregnant patients more aggressively, even those with moderate CO poisoning
- Comatose patients who survive may show immediate or delayed neuropsychiatric deficits; hyperbaric oxygen therapy decreases the incidence of both types of sequelae
- Survivors should avoid exertion for 3-6 weeks after severe poisoning
Steps to Carbon Monoxide Production
The most common carbon monoxide (CO) problems involve a lack of oxygen – either because there is simply not enough, or because the flames cool off before the carbon can join with it. CO is produced whenever a fuel is burned without enough oxygen on hand. Carbon atoms in the fuel that normally join up with two oxygen atoms to form carbon dioxide, which is harmless to human health, end up with only one oxygen atom and instead form CO.
Basic Steps to Getting CO Into Your Life
It is not enough to understand how to create CO, we need to examine all of the coordinating factors which can create it and allow it into the living space.
Five basic factors not only lead to the production of CO, but will aid in getting it into your homes. Any one major failure can get CO into your home, but typically three of these factors must go awry to produce a major problem.
The Flow of Fuel
As you add fuel to a fire, the fire produces more Btus of heat. It also requires more oxygen to combine with the carbon and hydrogen to form carbon dioxide and water vapor (H2O. As you continue to add fuel, the amount of available oxygen needs to keep up or CO will be produced, which is incompletely burned carbon. In engineered systems (all modern combustion appliances) the amount of air that can move through the unit is limited by the design. Any additional restriction (dirt, lint, carbon) will result in the air flow being reduced. The air flow is controlled by the laws of nature (hot air rises). The flow of fuel is controlled by the pressure applied to the fuel and the size of the hole it is forced through. Any problem with the pressure of fuel input can lead to problems with the fuel/air mixture.
Competition for Air
We refer to many kinds of air when describing a standard combustion appliance (combustion air, primary air, secondary air, dilution air, return air, supply air, and so on). Air, or more precisely the oxygen in the air, is fundamental to the combustion process. The amount of air than can come into standard appliances is typically controlled by two basic systems. First is the mix of gas and air before combustion (primary air). This is controlled by the design of the burner, the pressure of the gas, and any control of the air stream. The secondary air, or additional air that is needed to supply oxygen to the flames, is simply controlled by the amount of air that is drawn through the heat exchanger.
In order for these two simple systems at the appliance to supply adequate oxygen for complete combustion, there needs to be sufficient air to the area around the appliance. Any competition for the air needed for the combustion process can lead to problems. The power of the competition does not need to be strong to overcome the natural forces of the combustion appliance.
Venting: The Wild Card
Getting all of the combustion products out of the living space, a matter of indoor air quality, is fundamental to the safety of our clients. Codes and venting systems are designed to ensure this happens. In the cases that combustion appliances are unvented (they vent into the living space), there are specific directions for additional ventilation needs (like opening a window).
Venting can be a wild card due to its relationship to both the weather and the physical configuration, time of year, time of day, connection with other appliances, connection with the house, and so on. All of these relationships can have a dramatic effect on the draft of an appliance. The fundamental principle is that hot air rises. We can thus figure out how much area in the vent is needed to get all the combustion products out of the building. These rules may not always result in successful venting in actual buildings. Only testing can provide an indication of the operation.
The operations of the appliance can be broken down into two components: those defined primarily by the internal controls of the unit and those dictated by the occupant. We have found many units where the appliance is not able to operate correctly and that just happened to keep the unit from being a major liability to health and safety. Changing any portion of the operation may affect safety. This includes adjusting the distribution, air tightness of the unit, ductwork, load/insulation, not to mention touching the unit itself. The client’s operation of the unit can also affect safety.
Luck (Or Lack of)
Luck is the final card. It is the random combination of the first four factors and other things that affect the building. Simple things like unclogging a dryer vent, fixing a bath fan, repairing ducts, or insulating walls, can change the operating patterns of the combustion devices.
How it Happens
In addition to the five basic components, we have seen significant patterns in the creation of CO.
Very few HVAC installers have the equipment necessary to ensure a safe installation of a combustion appliance is completed. Many units create CO because of improper setup and testing. Problems with gas pressure, orifice size, and improper venting are the most common.
Remodeling a building often involves adding walls and changing the combustion air location and source availability. At Sun Power we have seen new house designs which virtually ensure that the combustion air source will be eliminated. In addition to limiting the combustion air, remodeling typically increases the pollution in the area of the combustion devices (for instance installing a dryer in a small room with the furnace).
Deterioration and Proper Installation
Long-term deterioration of an appliance is not a common factor leading to CO production. However, deterioration is a common problem with units that were marginally installed: vents with long horizontal runs may have just met standards when they were installed but are prone to rust out over time. Venting into an unlined chimney can lead to problems (erosion of the chimney can eventually lead to leaks). Dirt from a crawlspace can fall down and block the combustion air hoes in a water heater. Even crawlspace furnaces stay fairly trouble-free unless major contaminants are introduced into the area. Dryers and water are the chief causes, but rust and lint are good at blocking everything.
CO can be drastically reduced in the home if the units are installed correctly in a dedicated area which is not connected to the living space. This requires a room for the combustion appliances that is vented with outside combustion air (or sealed combustion units) and has sealed ductwork.
Properties, Presence & Detection:
- CO is easy to detect.
- CO is lighter than air and therefore rises (to the ceiling) and stays there.
- CO is not combustible.
- CO and natural gas are the same thing.
- You can always tell if CO is present because of a peculiar odor that will be present.
- A brand new, well designed, perfectly “tuned” heating/cooking device cannot produce toxic/lethal amounts of CO.
- Diesel engine exhaust never contains adequate CO to cause harm.
- HVAC and gas company personnel always check for CO when performing maintenance/service on home heating systems.
- CO will be detected immediately by service personnel if it is present in a home heating system.
- When your home CO detector shows low levels of CO, it is probably just an instrument malfunction.
- Cracks in heat exchangers are responsible for production of CO.
- Home CO detectors/sensors are the best devices to ferret out CO because they react to very low levels of the gas.
- CO binding to hemoglobin is irreversible.
- CO (caused) hypoxia is no more serious than any other type of hypoxia.
- CO poisoning is no more serious than an anemia in which there is a comparable amount of hemoglobin able to carry oxygen.
- Small animals (birds, mice, etc.) die more quickly because their hemoglobin binds CO more avidly than that of humans, thus they were used as alarms for CO in mines.
- The fetus is protected from CO by the maternal body.
- Good COHb measurements can be obtained one day to a week after a person leaves the site of the CO poisoning.
- Breathing “clean” air for 2-3 hours will eliminate all CO from the body.
- Breathing 100% oxygen for 20-30 minutes will eliminate all CO from the body.
- Breathing (filter) masks protect the wearer from inhalation of CO.
- The skin, nail beds, etc. of people with CO poisoning are invariably red or pink in color.
- Fever is a symptom of CO poisoning.
- Nasal congestion, cough and hoarseness are symptoms of CO.
- The lungs are inflammed by low to moderate levels of CO and will show pathology on X-rays.
- Symptom clusters involving prolonged headache, dizziness, nausea, and fatigue of the whole family should be blamed on viruses, bad food, or group craziness.
- Everyone responds to CO in the same way, ie. show the same symptoms.
Even More Misconceptions
- Inhalation of 100% oxygen from a rebreathing mask or from nasal prongs are recommended best immediate means of removing CO from the body.
- Victims of CO poisoning should be released from medical care immediately following 1-2 hours of oxygen treatment, whether or not their symptoms have disappeared.
- There is no need for repeat COHb measurements, psychometric tests, or other clinical tests following medical treatment for CO poisoning.
- People who recover from CO poisoning are always completely normal.
- Depression and personality change never result from CO poisoning.
- CO exposure never produces brain damage unless there is a period of unconsciousness.
- Low / moderate CO exposure cannot produce brain damage or significant changes in functional performance.
- In environments containing CO, the levels of CO2, oxygen and other gases are unimportant in the degree of poisoning.
- Physicians receive adequate training in the diagnosis and treatment of CO poisoning in medical school.
- Physicians obtain adequate experience with CO poisoning in treating their patients.
- Psychiatrists and neurologists are the best medical professionals of choice to determine the extent of CNS damage caused by CO.
High-tech imaging devices (CT, MR, SPECT) always shows areas of brain damage from CO poisoning, if it exists.
Consumer Protection Safety Commission Document #4466
What is carbon monoxide (CO) and how is it produced in the home?
CO is a colorless, odorless, toxic gas. It is produced by the incomplete combustion of solid, liquid and gaseous fuels. Appliances fueled with gas, oil, kerosene, or wood may produce CO. If such appliances ar not installed, maintained, and used properly, CO may accumulate to dangerous levels.
What are the symptoms of CO poisoning and why are these symptoms particularly dangerous?
Breathing CO causes symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and weakness in healthy people. CO also causes sleepiness, nausea, vomiting, confusion and disorientation. At very high levels, it causes loss of consciousness and death.
This is particularly dangerous because CO effects often are not recognized. CO is odorless and some of the symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to the flu or other common illnesses.
Are some people more affected by exposure to CO than others?
CO exposures especially affect unborn babies, infants, and people with anemia or a history of heart disease. Breathing low levels of the chemical can cause fatigue and increase chest pain in people with chronic heart disease.
How many people die from CO poisoning each year?
In 1989, the most recent year for which statistics are available, thee were about 220 deaths from CO poisoning associated with gas-fired appliances, about 30 CO deaths associated with solid-fueled appliances (including charcoal grills), and about 45 CO deaths associated with liquid- fueled heaters.
How many people are poisoned from CO each year?
Nearly 5,000 people in the United States are treated in hospital emergency rooms for CO poisoning; this number is believed to be an underestimate because many people with CO symptoms mistake the symptoms for the flu or are misdiagnosed and never get treated.
How can production of dangerous levels of CO be prevented?
Dangerous levels of CO can be prevented by proper appliance maintenance, installation, and use: :
A qualified service technician should check your home’s central and room heating appliances (including water heaters and gas dryers) annually. The technician should look at the electrical and mechanical components of appliances, such as thermostat controls and automatic safety devices.
- Chimneys and flues should be checked for blockages, corrosion, and loose connections.
- Individual appliances should be serviced regularly. Kerosene and gas space heaters (vented and unvented) should be cleaned and inspected to insure proper operation.
- CPSC recommends finding a reputable service company in the phone book or asking your utility company to suggest a qualified service technician.
Proper installation is critical to the safe operation of combustion appliances. All new appliances have installation instructions that should be followed exactly. Local building codes should be followed as well.
- Vented appliances should be vented properly, according to manufacturer’s instructions.
- Adequate combustion air should be provided to assure complete combustion.
- All combustion appliances should be installed by professionals.
Follow manufacturer’s directions for safe operation.
- Make sure the room where an unvented gas or kerosene space heater is used is well ventilated; doors leading to another room should be open to insure proper ventilation.
- Never use an unvented combustion heater overnight or in a room where you are sleeping.
Are there signs that might indicate improper appliance operation?
Yes, these are:
- Decreasing hot water supply
- Furnace unable to heat house or runs constantly
- Sooting, especially on appliances
- Unfamiliar or burning odor
- Increased condensation inside windows
Are there visible signs that might indicate a CO problem?
Yes, these are:
- Improper connections on vents and chimneys
- Visible rust or stains on vents and chimneys
- An appliance that makes unusual sounds or emits an unusual smell
- An appliance that keeps shutting off (Many new appliances have safety components attached that prevent operation if an unsafe condition exists. If an appliance stops operating, it may be because a safety device is preventing a dangerous condition. Therefore, don’t try to operate an appliance that keeps shutting off; call a service person instead.)
Are there other ways to prevent CO poisoning?
Yes, these are:
- Never use a range or oven to heat the living areas of the home
- Never use a charcoal grill or hibachi in the home
- Never keep a car running in an attached garage
Can CO be detected?
Yes, CO can be detected with CO detectors that meet the requirements of Underwriters Laboratories (UL) standard 2034.
Since the toxic effect of CO is dependent upon both CO concentration and length of exposure, long-term exposure to a low concentration can produce effects similar to short term exposure to a high concentration.
Detectors that meet the UL standard measure both high CO concentrations over short periods of time and low CO concentrations over long periods of time. The effects of CO can be cumulative over time
Detectors sound an alarm before the level of CO in a person’s blood would become crippling
Detectors that meet the UL 2034 standard currently cost between $35 and $80.
Where should the detector be installed?
CO gases distribute evenly and fairly quickly throughout the house; therefore, a CO detector should be installed on the wall or ceiling in sleeping area/s but outside individual bedrooms to alert occupants who are sleeping.
Aren’t there safety devices already on some appliances? And if so, why is a CO detector needed?
Vent safety shutoff systems have been required on furnaces and vented heaters sine the late 1980s. They protect against blocked or disconnected vents or chimneys.
Oxygen depletion sensors (ODS) have also been installed on unvented gas space heaters since the 1980s. ODS protect against the production of CO caused by insufficient oxygen for proper combustion.
These devices (ODSs and vent safety shutoff systems) are not a substitute for regular professional servicing, and many older, potentially CO-producing appliances may not have such devices. Therefore, a CO detector is still important in any home as another line of defense.
Are there other CO detectors that are less expensive?
There are inexpensive cardboard or plastic detectors that change color and do not sound an alarm and have a limited useful life. They require the occupant to look at the device to determine if CO is present. CO concentrations can build up rapidly while occupants are asleep, and these devices would not sound an alarm to wake them.
Consumer Protection Safety Commission’s Role
- CPSC worked closely with UL to develop a safety standard for CO detectors (UL 2034).
- CPSC embarked on an extensive public awareness campaign in 1993 to reach consumers and educate them about CO through the media. Activities included a message from President Clinton declaring the last week of September “CO Safety Awareness Week.” CPSC also developed stories for television, radio, and newspapers, as well as brochures and posters for consumers.
- CPSC is proposing that the national model building code organizations include a provision for the installation of state of the art CO detectors in all new residential construction. The proposal calls for installation in sleeping areas, but outside individual bedrooms.
- Under CPSC’s proposal, battery-operated units would be allowed only in existing homes, not new construction. Even homes with no permanently-installed fuel-burning appliances would have to install them because CO deaths have been associated with the use of portable kerosene heaters, wood-burning stoves, charcoal grills wrongly used indoors, and auto fumes from an attached garage.
- CPSC staff is working with state and local code jurisdictions to incorporate CO detector requirements into state and local legislation.
- CPSC is working with the National Fire Protection Association to develop a national installation standard.
CO Detector Requirements in the U.S.
- On September 15, 1993, Chicago, IL became one of the first cities in the nation to adopt an ordinance requiring the installation of CO detectors that bear the mark of a nationally-recognized testing laboratory in all new single-family homes and in existing single-family residences that are being equipped with new oil or gas combustion furnaces.
- Kingston, NY has approved a code to require the installation of CO detectors in multiple dwellings with four or more dwelling units.
- Bel Air, TX requires CO detectors in some single-family dwellings.
- The Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) requires CO detectors in motor homes made after September 1, 1993. RVIA requires CO detectors in all recreational vehicles that are motorized and in towable recreational vehicles that have a generator or are prepped for a generator. RVIA’s membership includes approximately 90% of all U.S. recreational vehicle manufacturers.
Carbon Monoxide Alarms
What they can and cannot do
- CAN – sense unacceptable levels of CO in the air
- CAN – provide early warning, before a healthy adult might show symptoms
- CAN – act as round-the-clock monitor of CO
- CAN – only sense CO that reaches it – Where you hang a detector is important
- CAN – breakdown like any other electronic device
- CANNOT – work without electrical power (batteries, AC)
- CANNOT – sense smoke, natural gas, propane, etc. (It is not a smoke detector!)
Where to put (or not put) your detector