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Is That the Carbon Monoxide Police Knocking on Your Door?

It is now law that all dwellings must have a carbon monoxide detector.

As of July 1, California law requires all homes to have a carbon monoxide (CO) detector installed. Does this mean that if you don't install the detector you may have a visit from your local police or fire department? Probably not.

No one is expecting a California civil servant to knock on your door to inspect for a proper installation. Instead, they have passed along this responsibility to your local Realtor. He or she must make sure that alarms are installed prior to the purchase or sale of a home.

Before we dig into the law, let's talk about carbon monoxide versus carbon dioxide.

Carbon monoxide (CO) has been called the invisible killer because it is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, toxic gas. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 15,000 people each year are treated for carbon monoxide poisoning in the U.S., and approximately 500 of these poisonings result in death.

Carbon monoxide is a gas that is created when fossil fuel (for example, natural gas) is partially burned. When fossil fuels are fully burned they create carbon dioxide and steam, both of which are safe to breath.

When we inhale carbon monoxide our bodies are fooled into thinking that it's oxygen, so our natural alert system, which makes us gasp for air, is short-circuited. The lack of oxygen makes us drowsy and the rest can be a very unfortunate outcome.

One of the reasons the CO poisoning is on the rise is that new homes are built to such high energy standards that they don't breath. That is to say, there is very little air transfer between the interior and exterior of the house, so bad gases are trapped indoors.

When purchasing a CO detector you might consider buying the combination alarm (smoke and CO). They don't cost much more, you'll have one less device cluttering your ceiling and you may save yourself the eventual inconvenience of trying to determine which alarm is beeping at two in the morning due to a low battery.

So when should you install your alarm? Summer is a good time since most CO accidents happen in the winter due to poorly vented heating systems.

Lastly, how many should you install? Although building codes determine where you must place a smoke detector, the CO detector placement is governed by manufacturer recommendation, so read the box.

For more information you can take a look at this FAQ.

In San Leandro, you can purchase a CO detector at , ,  or .

keith July 22, 2011 at 02:49 PM
Thanks for the good article Wayne, carbon monoxide is deadly serious. Californians can also expect CO detectors to be inspected anytime a building permit is issued. If anyone has questions about carbon monoxide detectors and their placement they can call me and I will be happy to assist. Keith Weiner Supervising Building Inspector City of San Leandro 510-577-3344 kweiner@sanleandro.org

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