Home Security 101: Carbon Monoxide Sensor Examined

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As we discussed in the recent post about wireless smoke & heat sensors, home alarm systems do a lot more than simply detect intrusion. Another very important way that residential security technology can contribute to your peace of mind is by adding an additional layer of protection, in the form of life safety.

Unlike intrusion direction, which is only “active” when your alarm system is “armed,” life safety detection devices don’t need to be turned on and off: they’re on the job 24/7. And we’ve addressed the fact that good alarm companies will recommend at least one monitored smoke and heat sensor for every system they sell. An additional device that we’ll cover today is the wireless carbon monoxide sensor.

The Silent Killer

Death caused by carbon monoxide inhalation (CO) is on the increase. In fact, the American Medical Association names CO as the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in America. The rising risk of CO has causing jurisdictions all across the U.S. to implement requirements for installation of carbon monoxide sensors – not only for residential construction, but also for commercial buildings.

What is Carbon Monoxide? 

Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of incomplete combustion, so it’s often associated with furnaces and portable heaters: here’s a link to the science of how it kills.  At only 0.64 percent concentration, CO can cause death in as little as 15 minutes, while much lower levels can harm pregnancies and cause long-term health issues. I first learned about CO while reading about one of my childhood heroes, the explorer Richard Byrd – he almost died from CO poisoning in the Antarctic.

Special Sensors 

Since carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless, and tasteless, it takes a special sensor to detect its presence. There are relatively inexpensive CO sensors, but they are not monitored. As is the case with non-monitored smoke and heat sensors, this is only partial protection: it does not help you, unless you can help yourself.

Most people like the comfort of knowing that help will be on the way in a critical condition. And as I covered in the previous post on fire monitoring, a significant benefit of the right monitored alarm system is the additional protection and peace of mind such a system can offer.

Where to Place the Sensor

The Consumer Product Safety Commission states, “carbon monoxide detectors are as important to home safety as smoke detectors are,” and has a helpful publication on placement and other information.

Note that the best location is in the sleeping area. CO is about the same “weight” as the air we breathe, so it generally does not rise like smoke. Placing the sensor at roughly the height of your head while sleeping may in fact be the best location.

Combination Sensors

I am not a big fan of the “combination” smoke/CO sensors sold by some companies – and interestingly, neither are the folks at Underwriters Laboratories, and other standards organizations. Separate sensors for CO versus smoke and heat are generally considered the right solution. Also, it is much easier to find wireless CO sensors today – and as we have discussed before, wireless sensors are the way to go.

Monitored CO Detection is Best

It’s great to know that if you are at home, and are overcome by CO, that help can be on the way in minutes. That’s why a monitored CO sensor is the wise choice of homeowners looking for true peace of mind. There are CO sensors that make noise, but don’t send an alert to someone who can help: as far as FrontPoint is concerned, those devices really don’t get it done for you.

So, please take carbon monoxide seriously. And when you are shopping for this additional feature, bear in mind that this added protection should not cost any extra per month: some alarm companies do charge more for life safety monitoring – but not the good ones!

One More Sensor Covered

We’re making great progress on our list of wireless sensors – they are only a few left to address. Once we’ve discussed all the devices that make up a complete wireless home alarm system, we can start talking about how to design the type and level of protection that is right for you.

Stay tuned for this series, and you’ll learn everything you need to know about the best ways to protect your home and family. It’s our pleasure to be your source for home security information.  See you next Monday!

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