What Causes a Carbon Monoxide Detector to Go Off?

There are few things more unsettling than a carbon monoxide detector going off in your home.

Unlike a smoke detector, where the reason why the alarm is going off is quite obvious (typically visible smoke/steam), carbon monoxide detectors are set off by an invisible/odorless/tasteless gas.

Carbon monoxide is associated with the gas that stems when using a fuel burning appliance (think natural gas stove).

If an area is not properly ventilated, the carbon monoxide can rise to a level that is deemed dangerous and assuming your carbon monoxide detector is properly functioning, will trigger the alarm to set off.

A home may normally be vented appropriately, but something (dust, etc.) may somehow seemingly out of nowhere block the vent, cause the carbon monoxide level to rise and hence prompt the carbon monoxide alarm to go off.

If a carbon monoxide detector becomes expired or its battery is low, this can cause its alarm to go off sporadically.

Built up moisture in a bathroom or like areas can set off a carbon monoxide detector, carbon monoxide detectors should not be set up in areas where there is a tremendous amount of steam.

Because of how energy efficient homes are these days, sealed homes with added insulation, super weather-tight windows, and other types of things made to increase the heating and cooling factors of one’s home, can actually have a reverse, more detrimental effect in regard to inadvertently increasing the levels of carbon monoxide in the home, as our homes get closed up more than ever before, and hence not allowing any rising carbon monoxide to more easily escape to the outside.

One of the keys to make sure that any carbon monoxide buildup is minimized, is to make sure your home is properly vented.

In the modern day quest to achieve optimum energy efficiency, the balance between maximizing your home’s energy efficiency and ensuring it is properly vented is quite the task, as with each added layer of air tightness added to your home, a natural by-product is it becomes more difficult for it to naturally “breathe”.

Carbon monoxide is a gas where there are no real “safe” concentrations of it in one’s home, only “tolerable” levels.

If your carbon monoxide detector does happen to go off in your home, the best advice is to open your windows immediately and leave the premises.

You should not return to the home for a longer period of time until the fire department and/or a licensed professional has had a chance to properly evaluate the situation and see if what set off the carbon monoxide detector can be determined, and a plan can be put in place to mitigate the cause of the trigger.

If you experience any symptom of carbon monoxide poisoning – headache, dizziness, nausea, rapid heartbeat, disorientation, or an overall feeling of not feeling right – in conjunction with the carbon monoxide detector going off – you should get outside immediately and be seen by a medical professional as soon as possible.

Carbon monoxide is a gas that can lead to some scary situations, however, if a way to recognize dangerous levels of it is properly in place and you are aware of what to do in the case where higher levels of it are discovered, a potentially very dangerous scenario can absolutely be a bit more comfortably managed to work through.

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