Everyone seems to have heard of carbon monoxide, but not many people seem to know much about it other than hearing about it in a tragic accident on the news. This is a colorless and odorless gas that is produced whenever a fuel source is burned. These fuel sources can consist of many different things including natural gas, kerosene, oil, wood, charcoal and even paint thinner.
The problem is that carbon monoxide cannot be detected without the use of a monitoring device; carbon monoxide if not detected can very easily cause death. Not to mention even smaller amounts can still cause carbon monoxide poisoning, which can lead to serious health issues from lethargy and amnesia to psychosis and even Parkinson’s disease. Considering the potentially devastating effect undetected carbon monoxide can have to the inhabitants of a home or building, it is very important to have carbon monoxide detectors installed.
Here are a few things to know about the detectors themselves:
- Carbon monoxide detectors are similar to smoke detectors in size, appearance and cost.
- The detector can be a battery powered plug-in style with battery backup, or an installed and wired device connected to a system panel with battery backup.
- Under law, the carbon monoxide detector must omit an audible alarm when elevated levels of carbon monoxide are detected.
- In circumstances in which a combination of both a smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector are in the same device, there must be a distinct difference in the audible alarm between the two.
What many people are wondering when researching this topic, though, is CO heavier than air and where should I install my detector? Also what is the Pennsylvania law about carbon monoxide detectors? First, the research about the gas shows that CO (carbon monoxide) is very slightly lighter than air but essentially just mixes with it. Therefore, the gas can be anywhere, high, low or both. The feeling is, when mixing with forced air systems it will be in the heated air and will be high like smoke. However, in many newer homes that are very energy efficient with no drafts and radiant heating systems any CO that may be created by some type of fuel (or paint thinner) may actually be creeping along the floor and possibly no higher than bed height. In a situation like this, by installing a detector high can be useless until the levels may be so high that the occupants had no chance to escape while sleeping.
Beginning in June 2015, all apartment units and multifamily dwellings in Pennsylvania will be required by law to include carbon monoxide alarms within the vicinity of the units’ bedrooms. On December 18, 2013, Governor Tom Corbett signed Act Number 121, which requires any such facilities that use fossil fuel-burning appliances or have an attached garage, to install a centrally located and approved carbon monoxide alarm near bedrooms and the fossil fuel-burning appliance. The Act became effective immediately and allows 18 months for owners and management to put the proper devices in place.
The Act lists owner responsibilities including maintenance and repair requirements. The Pennsylvania Apartment Association was instrumental in having occupant responsibilities included in the Act as well. These responsibilities put the onus of device upkeep and battery replacement on rental residents during their occupancies. Residents must also replace the actual device if it is lost, stolen, removed, or found to be broken, during their occupancies. Additionally, residents must notify the owner in writing if the device is found to be insufficient or defective.
Currently, the Pennsylvania building code only requires newly constructed homes that have fossil fuel-burning heaters or appliances and/or an attached garage to have a carbon monoxide detector.
Thirty-five states have already enacted carbon monoxide alarm requirements. However, Pennsylvania was one of the few remaining cold weather states that did not have a law requiring the use of carbon monoxide detectors in the home. Pennsylvania also leads the nation in carbon monoxide-related poisonings and deaths.
Rep. Frank Farry (R-Bucks) the author of the House of Representatives’ version of the bill said “Homeowners shouldn’t wait for this bill to take effect. “This basic, inexpensive device can mean the difference between life and death.”
I hope you found this information helpful and if you have any additional questions please don’t hesitate to call.
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