Last month, seven people living in an apartment in Marion, IA were hospitalized after suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning. The culprit was a faulty water heater.
Tragically, about 1,200 people die each year from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. And only 14% of families in the US have properly functioning CO alarms installed in their homes.*
Rarely do we have a day where missing CO alarms are not noted as a safety item on inspection reports.
In fact, the majority of homes that we inspect are in violation of a recent change in Iowa state law. Since 2018, any home or residence with a fuel-burning appliance (furnace, fireplace, gas water heater, etc) is required to have a carbon monoxide alarm on each level of the house. (The actual statute is a little more elaborate.)
Properly working CO alarms are just as important as smoke detectors. (Be sure to read the last blog about smoke alarms.)
Carbon Monoxide is a colorless, tasteless, practically odorless gas that can have deadly consequences in high concentrations. Common sources can include a furnace, water heater, dryer, fireplace, stove, propane grill, generator, car, or a blocked chimney. In other words, chances are your house is at risk for a possible issue with and exposure to carbon monoxide.
It is important to know what the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are in case you are exposed to high concentrations of it. According to the CDC, ‘The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. CO symptoms are often described as “flu-like.”’
And this is why it is important to make sure your house has carbon monoxide alarms in the appropriate locations and that they are operating properly.
Types of Carbon Monoxide Alarms
Battery powered Alarms
Battery powered alarms are easy to install in any location throughout the house. The main disadvantage to these types of alarms is that you need to change batteries frequently.
Plug-in alarms eliminate this hassle. However, they do require a power source and should never be unplugged. So finding a receptacle in the necessary location where it will not get unplugged when someone is plugging in the vacuum is important. Some do also have a battery backup in case of a power outage.
Finally, combination smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are also an appropriate way to get the necessary protection in one convenient unit. It is typically best to place these in the hallway outside of bedrooms. Some combination units are sealed with a 10-year lithium ion batteries that eliminate the need to ever change a battery for the life of the unit.
As home inspectors, we do our best to highlight safety concerns in every house we inspect. Unfortunately, missing smoke and CO alarms repeatedly show up on our reports. In addition, it is especially unnerving when we reinspect a home a few years later to find that they are still missing.
In conclusion, please check your house to ensure you have carbon monoxide alarms on each habitable level of your home.
*According to the National Carbon Monoxide Awareness Association – NCOOA.us