The evacuation of UB’s dorm recently has me thinking about how uninformed the general public is about the importance of properly installed carbon monoxide detectors. I hope those students who became ill realize how lucky they were. Although there is a slight (safe) amount of carbon monoxide from furnaces and fireplaces in all buildings, the levels detected at UB were obviously higher than acceptable.
Carbon monoxide, known as the “Silent Killer” ought to scare more people. It is extremely dangerous in higher levels and the only sure fire way to detect dangerous levels and warn occupants to flee is through a properly installed, “wired-in” CO Detector.
2 Types of CO Detection: Battery Operated (Portable) and Wired-in (Hard Wired).
There are 2 Types of Carbon Monoxide Detectors: Battery Operated (Portable) and Wired-in.
Wired-In CO Detectors provide more reliable detection because they regularly purge and reset – noting more accurate reads of carbon monoxide in the environment. Furthermore, wired-in detectors allow for automated call-out for help when dangerous CO levels are present.
It’s important to note that both types of CO Detectors provide effective CO detection. However, it’s equally important to understand the differences between the two and why hard wired CO Detectors provide better protection and contribute to a safer living environment.
Type 1: Portable / Battery Powered CO Detection
Portable (Plug-in or Battery Operated) CO Detectors available at your local hardware store are less expensive and easy to install. At a cost of $8-$10, they can simply be plugged to any wall outlet or ceiling mounted. Like a battery powered smoke detector, the battery should be changed twice a year. While these models are effective in detecting carbon monoxide, there is a higher chance of false read due to the fact that the detector registers cumulative amounts of carbon monoxide.
2 Vulnerabilities of Battery Powered CO Detectors
There are 2 reasons that portable CO units are not as effective as wire-in / hard-wired systems.
1. Temporary Fixtures
Because battery powered CO Detectors are not permanent fixtures, they can be unplugged or moved to a less than desirable location. Additionally, just as battery changes in smoke detectors can be ignored (or forgotten), the same is true for the batteries in carbon monoxide detectors. Without power, the CO detector is useless.
2. No Monitoring = No Immediate Help
The second (and most important) reason why battery powered CO Detector are less reliable is the fact that they are not monitored! Dangerous levels of carbon monoxide will put occupants to sleep… quite possibly unable to hear the screeching of the siren. Furthermore, pets (or children left home alone) would not know to vacate the premise or call the authorities. Monitored carbon monoxide detectors are more reliable and safer due to the fact that an emergency signal is immediately transmitted to a central monitoring station who then notify the authorities.
Type 2: Hard-Wired Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Permanently mounted (hard-wired) CO Detectors must be professionally installed by a licensed HVAC or Security Installation Company. Like a light fixture, they are a permanent fixture and wired to the buildings AC power supply.
Four Benefits of Hard Wired Systems:
1. Maintenance Free
Hard wired CO detection systems are permanently installed, maintenance free and tamper resistant – No need to change a battery or worry about tampering. As a permanent fixture, they require little or no service and should last several years before needing to be replaced.
2. Higher Accuracy
Hard-wired carbon monoxide systems provide a more accurate read. Safe levels of carbon monoxide are registered and purged regularly, so CO detection is NOT cumulative This “regular purge and reset” gives a more accurate carbon monoxide diagnosis.
3. Live Call-To-Action
Warning signals from hard-wired CO detectors generate a live call to action to emergency call centers who dispatch police and fire authorities immediately.
4. Better Protection
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include lethargy or deep sleep. Since occupants need not place a call to get help, hard wired systems provide better protection. No need to have the ability to place a call (pets, kids or sleeping parents) for help to arrive to evacuate. With wired-in CO Detectors, a signal is sent automatically upon detection of unsafe levels of carbon monoxide.
All houses built after 2008 are required to have CO Detectors hard-wired into the building. Houses built before 2008 are permitted to have battery powered CO Detectors. While UB is not technically a “house,” it is a home to thousands of unsuspecting students who deserve to feel secure. They should breathe easy, knowing that carbon monoxide isn’t a threat. The scare on Sunday night is a reminder of how important it is to know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning and install the best detection equipment.