Do you have a low-level Carbon Monoxide (CO) detector?

I still come across penalty of homes here where the homeowner does not have a carbon monoxide (abbreviated as CO) detector. Some do not even know it is a law in New York State that you must have them installed in your home. I am sure you all know the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning. But what a lot of people do not know is there are different models of detectors that detect varying amounts of CO. If you are exposed to exceptionally low levels of carbon monoxide over a longer period (weeks or months), your symptoms can appear like the flu, with headache, fatigue, malaise (a general sick feeling) and sometimes nausea and vomiting. People with long-term exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide also can have numbness, unexplained vision problems, sleep disturbances, and impaired memory and concentration.

The standard CO detector that many big box stores sell is UL listed 2034. This means they are tested/required to meet a certain standard. At that standard, they do not provide enough protection from low level CO exposure. At that standard, the detectors must meet these response times: At 70 ppm (Parts Per Million), unit must alarm within 60-240 minutes; At 150 ppm, unit must alarm within 10-50 minutes; At 400 ppm, unit must alarm within 4-15 minutes. As you can see, the CO must be present for an extended period at elevated levels. Even in the UL 2034 specification it states, “Carbon monoxide alarms covered by this standard are not intended to alarm when exposed to long-term, low-level carbon monoxide exposures or slightly higher short-term transient carbon monoxide exposures, possibly caused by air pollution and/or properly installed/maintained fuel-fired appliances and fireplaces.” The alarms are there to save your life, but not to prevent you from getting low level CO poisoning which can be detrimental to your health over time. Especially for infants and the elderly.

How much better is a low-level detector?

A low-level detector will start to visually display CO typically around 5 PPM. That is an exceptionally low number. Depending on the monitor, they will start to visually display at 5 PPM and then start to give an audible chirp around 15 PPM. I grabbed these response times from the Defender low level CO detector: Visual alerts – 5 ppm within 1 minute, 10 ppm within 10 minutes, 25 ppm within 2 minutes. Audible alerts: 15 ppm within 60 minutes; 25 ppm within 30 minutes; 50 ppm within 15 minutes; and 100 ppm within 5 minutes; 150 ppm within 3 minutes. Much better response times for lower amounts of CO for better protection. Safety and health come first. Having a detector show you lower levels of CO can help notify you of a possible issue before it becomes a bigger risk.

Below is a picture I took while an unvented gas stove was being used for cooking. The display was already reading a small amount of CO. Many homes use gas stoves with unvented hoods. This just goes to show what your being exposed to and what smaller levels of CO the detector can pick up.

How much do they cost?

Typically, in the $150-200 range. The detectors utilize better sensors, which of course, raises the cost. But you cannot put a price on safety.

Where can I get them?

You can order them online. One of the models we recommend is the Defender LL6070. If you Google it, it will pop up. If you have trouble purchasing one, we can find one for you.

How long do they last?

5 years. Some 10 years. The sensor over time starts to wear out and eventually they must be replaced. Many have an audible chirp when the reach their life expectancy. We also recommend writing on the back with a marker the date you installed it. And always read the manufactures literature before installing. There should be one CO detector on every level of your home with one of them being a low-level detector for maximum protection.