Carbon monoxide’s various attributes—odorless, tasteless, neurologically impairing, and even fatal in high enough doses—make the gas both near-impossible to detect and vital to prepare against with a carbon monoxide monitor, a simple device that sounds an alarm when carbon monoxide levels grow to be excessive amounts in an enclosed area. Because a carbon monoxide monitor is always active, installing one in your home means your protection is ensured at all times.
Various federal regulatory commissions provide differing recommended limits of carbon monoxide exposure. The permissible exposure limit, or PEL, established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), is 50 parts per million (ppm) in an 8-hour weighted average, while the PEL provided by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), is 35 ppm averaged from an 8-hour timeframe. Since the carbon monoxide levels in homes with poorly maintained gas stoves can reach 30 ppm or higher, suffering from the impairments described above is not as impossible a scenario as some would like to believe.
Who is at Risk for CO Poisoning?
While all people, and even pets, are at risk for CO poisoning, there are certain groups of people who are more susceptible to the dangerous effects. These include:
- Infants and small children
- People with Chronic Heart Disease
- People with Anemia or Respiratory Problems
Statistics show that over 20,000 Americans are seen in hospital emergency rooms for CO poisoning and, of these, over 4,000 are hospitalized each year. Annual deaths total over 400 per year, with those over the age of 65 suffering the greatest number of fatalities, so it is important to protect yourself and your family by installing a CO monitoring device in your home.
Methods of Carbon Monoxide Monitoring
There are a variety of methods used in monitoring carbon monoxide levels to suit the differing needs of consumers, especially when considering price. For example, opto-chemical monitors simply alter the color of a detector pad. These monitors are the cheapest available, but the least effective in providing CO level warnings, due to the silent nature of the detector.
Electrochemical carbon monoxide detectors that rely on tin oxide semiconductors function through the heating of an integrated circuit. Because carbon monoxide reduces the heat resistance of the elements, any presence of the deadly gas allows the detector’s circuit to heat up to the point where an alarm is triggered. These detectors are more reliable than opto-chemical monitors, but are required to be wired to the main electrical current of the house, although battery-powered models are becoming more steadily available.
One of the most popular carbon monoxide detecting systems in use in the USA, particularly in locations with high occupancies or high levels of clearance where evacuation could be difficult and false alarms costly, is the biomimetic carbon monoxide detector. Through the use of metal salts and photodiodes, (which convert light into electricity), biomimetic carbon monoxide detectors provide the most reliable results while also living off a respectable battery life of 2-3 years, and possibly more when using lithium batteries.
Some of the more high tech digital carbon monoxide monitors have additional features, such as a printout of the carbon monoxide levels, determined in parts per million. These allow for more meticulous attention to be paid to the quality of air available while assuring the basics are also covered through the built-in digital alarm. These monitors are often also connected to a security monitoring system that will alert the authorities to a carbon monoxide emergency, making sure that help can come to you if you are unable to leave the affected area. In a situation, such as a gas leak affecting sleeping individuals within a poorly ventilated household, having the fire department sent to your house by your carbon monoxide monitor would make such a detector more than a sound investment, but a genuine life saver.