Carbon Monoxide Detectors – Do You Have the Right Type?

Home security systems protect your home from intruders. The best security systems not only protect you from crooks and other people with ill intent, but from health threatening conditions. The leading systems have carbon monoxide detectors to alert you to excessive levels of carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is a silent killer.  The CDC reports that carbon monoxide deaths climbed 36% from 2001 to 2006. Many people don’t realize their headache, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath, or confusion is a sign of CO poisoning.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, tasteless toxic gas that is deadly. It is a by-product of incomplete combustion. In Houston, common sources of CO gas are improper ventilation of home furnaces, water heaters, gas fireplaces, stoves, grills, gas powered machinery, paint strippers, and car exhaust. When our weather occasionally turns cold, propane space heaters are the impetus for many emergency calls.

Exposure to carbon monoxide starves you of oxygen, leading to unconsciousness, permanent brain damage, or death. Carbon monoxide detectors have pre-set safety limits in parts per million (ppm). The detector senses the gas and sounds an alarm if the levels get too high in your home. This gives you time to either open the windows or get out of your home.

There are 4 types of CO detectors to choose from.  The difference is in the technology – whether a chemical reaction, an electro-chemical reaction, or semiconductor is used to measure CO levels.  Today’s carbon monoxide detectors offer many features that let you monitor CO levels in your home including digital readouts.

All carbon monoxide detectors must be placed a minimum of 5 feet above the floor. High placement is necessary to proper functioning of the detector because gas rises.

The best home security companies offer CO detectors as additional security equipment. The detectors can be hardwired and monitored with your system, or merely battery operated or plugged into an electrical outlet. Either way, the cost of the detector will be determined by its accuracy and speed.

Opto-Chemical Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Opto-chemical CO detectors use a pad saturated with a chemical. The pad in the detector changes color when unsafe levels of CO are present. Their low cost reflects their low level of protection because they are not as reliable in detecting CO as other forms of detectors.

Semi-Conductor Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Semi-conductor detectors contain metal oxide. The interaction of CO with the metal oxide produces a temperature change in the detector. The increase in temperature is related to how much CO is present, and an alarm sounds if the CO level is unsafe. Semi-conductor detectors require a lot of power to work properly, thus usually must be hardwired. Most models last between 5 and 10 years without maintenance.

Biometric Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Biometric CO detectors are the most reliable and have the fewest false alarms. Hospitals and hotels prefer biometric detectors because of the high levels of other chemicals such as alcohols in disinfectants are also present.

Electro-Chemical Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Electro-Chemical detectors are the most common type used in homes. CO gas reacts with other chemicals in the detector, creating an electrical current that sets off the alarm. The detector can sense both low and high levels of CO and is highly accurate, needs minimal power, and has a lifespan of more than 5 years.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Keep your family safe. Houston’s Safeguard Home Security can help you choose the best carbon monoxide detector for your needs and integrate it with your security system.