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SMOKE DETECTOR

CARBON MONOXIDE





A properly installed and maintained smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector is the only thing in your home that can alert you and your family to a fire 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Whether you’re awake or asleep, a working smoke alarm is constantly on alert, scanning the air for fire and smoke. According to the National Fire Protection Association, almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in properties without working smoke alarms. A working smoke alarm significantly increases your chances of surviving a deadly home fire.

Few of us realize how easily - and how quickly - fire or carbon monoxide can harm our loved ones. Fortunately, there is a simple, affordable way to help prevent this from happening: the smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector. By providing an early warning in the event of fire or carbon monoxide, smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors may allow you and your family sufficient time to reach safety. Many people have neglected to install these detectors despite their life-saving potential and low cost. Even those who do have detectors often take them for granted - forgetting that they need some attention to continue working properly. UL offers the following tips for purchasing and maintaining smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Install at least one smoke alarm on each floor of the house or residence and outside all sleeping areas. Today's code standard requires installing smoke alarms inside each sleeping area. Book an appointment today to have smoke detectors or carbon monoxide detectors installed in your home or business.

When it comes to safety, SafeSide Electrical Contractor knows all current smoke and CO code requirements, and will make sure you and your home are up-to-date, and up-to-code.

Where are Smoke Alarms Required?

One of the responsibilities of a home inspector is to check the presence and functionality of smoke alarms in a home. Smoke alarms were required first in 1973. The codes pertaining to smoke alarms have expanded since then.

" In 1973, one smoke alarm was required for the whole home.
" In 1979, code changed to include a required retroactive smoke alarm inspection and hardwired and interconnected alarms when work of more than $1,000 was done on the home.
" In 1988, one smoke alarm was required on every floor of the home.
" In 1991, one smoke alarm was required in every sleeping room.
" In 2003, a smoke alarm was required in the vicinity outside of every bedroom.

If you are purchasing (or selling) a home that was built prior to 1991, smoke alarms are not required to be installed in bedroom. UNLESS there have been improvements to the house valued at $1,000 or more, or any work has been performed which required a permit. In either of these cases, smoke alarms are required in each bedroom, on each floor, and in hallways outside of each cluster of bedrooms.

A new Law, SB 745 has changed some rules regarding smoke alarms, and requirements for landlords.

" Starting July 1, 2014, any smoke alarm installed that is solely battery powered MUST contain a non-removable battery that is rated to last 10 years.
" An exemption exists for battery powered smoke alarm installed prior to July 1, 2014, but that expires on July 15, 2014.
" On July 1, 2015 ALL old smoke detectors that are solely powered by batteries must be replaced with those that contain a sealed battery that is rated to last 10 years.
" Effective July 1, 2015, all smoke alarms powered by 120 VAC or battery must comply with the provisions of having a label showing date of installation & manufacture.
" SB 745 also requires that for all dwelling units intended for human occupancy, for which a building permit is issued on or after January 1, 2014, for alterations, repairs, or additions exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), the permit issuer shall not sign off on the completion of work until the permittee demonstrates that all smoke alarms required for the dwelling unit are devices approved and listed by the Office of the State Fire Marshal pursuant to Health and Safety Code Section 13114.
" As of January 1, 2014, landlords cannot make the tenant responsible for testing or maintaining the smoke alarms. It is the landlord's responsibility.

Since 1980, the number of home fires and related deaths have been cut roughly in half. Unfortunately an average of eight people die every day from house fires. So next time the home inspector identifies failed or missing smoke alarms, thank him. He might be preventing a tragedy.

Carbon Monoxide Detector Requirements in
Carbon Monoxide is a poisonous gas that is a by-product of combustion. Whenever we burn something, Carbon Monoxide (CO) is released. Many items in a home can produce CO. If you have gas burning appliances such as a range or oven, furnace, water heater or fireplace, you could be exposed to CO if the appliances aren't properly installed or maintained. Even an attached garage can create a CO hazard because cars continue to emit CO after they are shut off. Many States have enacted laws that require CO detectors in homes. These laws are long over-due. Now that CO detectors are cheap, every home should have one. In our opinion they are as important, if not more, than smoke detectors. Smoke can usually be seen, smelled, and even felt if it is warm. CO on the other hand is odorless, colorless, and can be a silent killer. You don't need a huge house fire to have a CO hazard. It can come from some very small amounts of combustion.

Don't Confuse CO with Bubbles
A common mistake is when people refer to Carbon Monoxide as CO2 which is Carbon Dioxide. CO2 is totally different and is not dangerous. (CO2 is the gas that is often blamed for global warming, but that is a different topic). Let's stick to hazards in your home. CO2 is what makes carbonated drinks bubbly. CO on the other hand, can kill you.

How Does Carbon Monoxide Kill You?
Carbon Monoxide is a tasteless, odorless gas. Detection in a home environment is nearly impossible by humans. The symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to the flue. Nausea, vomiting, confusion, sore muscles, headache, dizziness, light headedness, loss of balance, etc. Often, people who experience these symptoms simply go to bed thinking they are coming down with a cold. Some never wake up. According to the Center for Disease Control Red Blood Cells pick up CO more easily than Oxygen. If there is enough CO it can prevent the oxygen from getting into the body causing tissue damage or death.

Statistics
Surprisingly there are poor statistics for CO deaths in the Unites States. The CDC reports that and average of 439 people died annually between 1999 and 2004 from non-fire related CO poisoning. Many more people are hospitalized due to symptoms of CO exposure. During the heavy snow storms of 2013 on the east coast of the U.S. and Canada, a young boy died in their family car in the short time it took the father to dig the car out of the snow. Snow drifts blocked the exhaust pipe and CO entered the cabin of the vehicle. That's how quickly CO can kill you.

Types of CO Detectors
There are two types of CO detectors commonly available:
Electromechanical
This is the dominant technology used in the United States. A sensor creates an electric charge which varies with the amount of CO present. They use little power, and operate at room temperature.

Biometric
These detectors have a sensor which changes color in the presence of CO. Just like blood, the sensor gets darker with higher concentrations of CO. An optical sensor reacts to the changing color. These detectors are very accurate and are used in higher-end facilities such as hospitals, where the cost of a false alarm can be high. CO detectors are available with wireless vibrating pads, strobes, or other remote warning devices. These are used for people with hearing impairments, low vision, or other sensory impairment. Hotels are becoming more likely to provide these in their accessible rooms, or upon request.

Regulation Can Make You Sick
All Carbon Monoxide detectors must meet the requirements of Underwriters Laboratory Standard UL 2034. The UL Standard covers electrically operated single and multiple station carbon monoxide (CO) alarms intended for protection in ordinary indoor locations of dwelling units, including recreational vehicles, mobile homes, and recreational boats with enclosed accommodation spaces and cockpit areas.

Installation Requirements
There is a lot of discussion, even argument, over the proper installation height of CO detectors. Should they be on the ceiling? Can they be plugged in as many CO detectors are sold with a plug? Is CO lighter or heavier than air? Etc. We are often asked how many detectors are required, and in which rooms they should be installed. According to the 2005 edition of the carbon monoxide guidelines published by the National Fire Protection Association, sections 5.1.1.1 and 5.1.1.2, all CO detectors "shall be centrally located outside of each separate sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms," and each detector "shall be located on the wall, ceiling or other location as specified in the installation instructions that accompany the unit."The fact is that CO has nearly the same specific gravity as air. Air has a specific gravity of 1 and CO has a specific gravity of just over .965. So the CO detectors can be mounted just about anywhere with a few exceptions. They should not be mounted on the wall within 6 inches of the ceiling. This "pocket" is considered dead air that does not circulate or mix well with the rest of the air in the house. They can be mounted on the ceiling. According to the 2009 edition of the IRC published by the International Code Council, "For new construction, an approved carbon monoxide alarm shall be installed outside of each separate sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms in dwelling units within which fuel-fired appliances are installed and in dwelling units that have attached garages". New homes must have CO detectors installed consistent with Smoke Detectors. You should follow the manufacturer's installation recommendations as they have likely performed research to determine the best placement for their detector.

False Sense of Security
Some people believe that opening a window slightly will protect them from CO poisoning if, for example, they are using a kerosene heater or BBQ to heat their home. Since air and CO have essentially the same properties, the CO will not magically leave your home through an open window. You would need to exchange the air in your home with fresh air with the use of a fan. Blowing cold air in from the exterior would defeat the purpose of a heater. If you lose electricity and need to heat your home, build a fire in the fireplace. Do not use a BBQ, Propane or kerosene heater, or generator inside your home for any period, or for any length of time. It is not safe to do so.

What Features To Look For
If you are concerned about low levels of Carbon Monoxide, be sure to check the ratings on any device you are buying. Low level CO detectors are available, but only UL listed detectors are available in retail stores. No matter what detector you buy, you may want to consider these features:

" A display which shows the recent levels of CO
" A 110 volt hard-wired or plug in detector with battery
" A battery life indicator

Look for the life rating on the detector. All CO detectors have a life of 5-7 years after which they must be replaced. This is due to the life and sensitivity of the sensor. You should write the purchase date on your detector when you put it into service.

Prevention
The best way to deal with Carbon Monoxide is to avoid it in the first place.
" Never use a Propane or Kerosene heater inside
" Never use a generator in the house or in a garage
" Have your gas burning appliance checked annually
" Check furnace and clothes dryer flue for signs of damage or obstruction. Birds and squirrels are known for building nests, or hiding food in exhaust flues
" Never run your car in the garage with the door closed - even for a few minutes
" Replace your CO detector every 5-7 years

If you start feeling sick you should first move to fresh air and see if you feel better. Don't just assume you are getting a cold or flu and go to bed. If you feel better outside, you may have been exposed to Carbon Monoxide in the home.

You should have your gas burning appliances checked annually by a company or utility that actually checks for CO levels. You can also visually look at your water heater and the flue (pictured above), furnace and clothes dryer flue for signs of damage or obstruction. Birds and squirrels are known for building nests or hiding food in exhaust flues. This can prevent proper drafting of exhaust gases and they can find their way into your home. If you have young children, older parents, or someone with health issues living in your house, you should consider getting a "Low-Level" CO detector. ALL SINGLE FAMILY residential dwelling units as of July 1, 2011 must have a CO detector, even those that are not being sold. All other dwelling units (multi-family, dormitories, hotels, motels, etc) must have CO detectors installed by January 1, 2013. Expect to see this new inspection item in your home inspection report. Home inspectors will be required to report on the presence or absence of a working Carbon Monoxide detector just like they report on Smoke Detectors, and water heater strapping. Home Buyers and Sellers will also see this new requirement on Transfer Disclosure Statements. In addition to Smoke Alarms and strapped water heaters, sellers will be required to disclose the presence or absence of a working Carbon Monoxide detector starting July 1, 2011.

 


                 


         
         
         
         

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