Your home most likely has CO detectors and smoke alarms, but have you chosen the right ones, and are you using them the right way? Most of these devices provide a measure of protection but fail to respond in some scenarios, depending on their sensors and the levels of carbon monoxide and/or smoke in your home, so choosing the right devices is paramount.

The need for protection

A home fire can have a number of causes, such as unattended cooking or faulty wiring. Essentially, a smoke detector is designed to alert you to a fire hazard when you and your family members are sleeping, giving you time to escape.

Carbon monoxide is a bit trickier. Multiple home systems use fuel that emits CO, but it’s usually exhausted outside the home. You cannot detect carbon monoxide’s presence through any of the five senses, as it’s a deadly colorless, odorless gas. The only way to ensure that you're alerted to the presence of CO if the gas leaks or a system malfunctions is through effective detectors.

Choosing and using smoke alarms

All smoke detectors aren’t the same, and it's important to know that some, namely those with ionization technology, use sensors that quickly detect a large flame but don’t catch a smoldering fire. Others use technology such as photoelectric metrics to quickly sense a smaller smoldering fire but are not so quick to respond to larger fires. Fortunately, you can select a smoke alarm that uses both forms of technology, so you're protected in the event of any type of fire.

Once you’ve purchase the right smoke alarms, you'll need to install them properly. In general, follow these rules:

  • Install an alarm on each floor of your home.
  • Place an alarm outside the bedrooms.
  • Install an alarm inside each bedroom. A closed bedroom door may keep you from sensing a fire, but the smoke detector inside the room will alert you.
  • Avoid placing smoke alarms near the kitchen, garage or bathrooms. Doing so increases the likelihood of false alarms from humidity, cooking or vehicle exhaust. After hearing several false alarms, you might not pay attention to an alarm when there really is a fire. 

Choosing and using carbon monoxide detectors

When you’re shopping for CO detectors, investigate the sensors, as it's vitally important that you choose ones with technology that detects both high concentrations of CO — an obvious danger — and low concentrations. Over time, low concentrations can lead to significant physical problems — and even death.

To ensure that you're alerted to CO in your home, follow these instructions for effective placement:

  • Put the detector in a central location if your home is very small and has only one floor.
  • If you have a multistory home, install one detector on each floor.
  • Install the devices high up on walls, as the weight of CO is similar to that of warm air, which rises to the top of a room.

Take these precautions: 

  • Placing a detector close to a window or exterior door may cause an inaccurate reading. If a window or door is open, more fresh air enters the home, mixing with the CO. As a result, the detector won't sound its alarm.
  • Do not place a CO detector close to combustible equipment, which emits minute amounts of CO at start-up.
  • Avoid placing detectors in the kitchen or bathrooms, where humidity-generating activities take place.
  • Last, avoid locating a device outside a garage-to-house doorway.

Maintaining CO detectors and smoke alarms

Maintaining both CO detectors and smoke alarms is easy. If your devices are battery operated, follow these three steps:

  1. Every month, push the testing button on the devices to ensure the batteries are operational.
  2. Every year, change the batteries.
  3. Take note of the life span of your devices, indicated in the owner's manuals. As a rule, a smoke detector should last about 10 years, and a CO detector for about five years.

Need to boost the protection that CO detectors and smoke alarms provide? For all home safety and efficiency questions, contact Conroe Air Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration. We serve Conroe, Montgomery County and surrounding areas.