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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 detectors.

Does this mean that if you don't install detectors 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 real estate agent. He or she will 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 vs. carbon dioxide.

Carbon monoxide 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 per 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 (example: natural gas) is partially burned. When fossil fuels are fully burned they create carbon dioxide and steam, both of which are safe to breathe.

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

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

When purchasing a detector consider buying the combination alarm (smoke and carbon monoxide). They are not much more expensive, you'll have one less device to clutter 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 carbon monoxide 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 detector placement is governed by manufacturer recommendation (so read the box).

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

Carol July 22, 2011 at 04:53 PM
Question: Does the law include rentals as well or just owner occupied homes?
Wayne Gregori July 22, 2011 at 05:40 PM
Any dwelling... it is the responsibility of the home owner (landlord) to install the detector. Thanks
joel July 25, 2011 at 05:03 PM
quite Frankly I wont be installing one anytime soon , furnace is used 2 months in the year if that much ......
Michele Kuttner July 25, 2011 at 07:05 PM
I can speak from experience that a carbon monoxide detector is a great thing to have. A couple of years ago, we replaced ancient smoke detectors with those that are both a smoke & carbon monoxide detector. Up until recently, they have only gone off occasionally when I'm cooking (burning?) dinner. Last winter, my son and I returned home to the sound of a voice calling out "Warning! Warning! Carbon monoxide alert!" Yes. Our detectors actually both beep & speak in some robotic lady voice. I quickly called PG&E and we waited outside until they arrived. They confirmed that our house was indeed filled with carbon monoxide fumes and that our old furnace (that goes with our old house) was no longer functioning properly. I hate to think what might have happened to us should we have had only smoke detectors. They were certainly worth the investment of time and money.
Gale July 28, 2011 at 06:11 PM
So, if we are all-electric, like so many Alameda dwellings, and we never use our fireplace, is there any other reason why we might need one?

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