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Carbon Monoxide Detectors Not Just a Good Idea

It becomes law on July 1 to have a CO detector in most homes.

You can’t see it, you can’t smell it, but it can kill you.

Science fiction movie? Pulp fiction blurb? No, that’s the thrust of the County of Napa website information page on a new state law mandating carbon monoxide detectors in most single-family homes by July 1 of this year.

In summary, the state Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act  requires all single-family homes with an attached garage or a fossil fuel source to install carbon monoxide alarms within the home by July 1, 2011. Owners of multi-family leased or rental dwellings, such as apartment buildings, have until January 1, 2013 to comply with the law.

Does this mean you? Yes, if you have a gas stove or water heater, park your car in your garage, a wood-burning or gas-burning stove indoors, or the like - carbon monoxide (CO) is produced whenever any fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood, or charcoal is burned.

CO detectors are like smoke alarms, small battery-powered devices that emit an alert when CO reaches a certain level. There are several models – the local says prices start at about $17 and go up from there. and also have detectors in stock, as should most other hardware and home supply stores. “Pickings are getting a little slim, though,” said the Home Depot clerk I spoke to, “because everyone and their grandmother is in here buying them.” 

The low-cost detectors run about $20, and are battery-powered. More pricey models are plug-in with battery backup, and while some models combine both smoke and CO detection in the same unit, the units don’t really make sense as CO hugs the ground and smoke rises to the top. “You’d be dead of CO poisoning before the alarm went off if you mounted it on the ceiling,” said Gary at Clark’s Hardware.

CO poisoning can be subtle, but fatal. Symptoms include shortness of breath, mild nausea, and mild headache at low levels, and severe headaches, dizziness, mental confusion, nausea or fainting at higher levels. You should be especially concerned if more than one person in the house has the same symptoms.

Oh, and by the way. Property owners who fail to install a carbon monoxide alarm will face fines of up to $200.  Better get yours soon – before your grandmother buys the last one.

Robert Ceballos June 22, 2011 at 09:52 PM
I got my first one years ago... just seemed like a good idea. They can't really enforce this law en-mass but if more people are taking precautions because the law has heightened awareness, good for them.

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