The majority of deaths from home fires and carbon monoxide poisoning occur during the night when people are asleep. This is why having smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in your home is essential since they will wake you up should a fire occur or if carbon monoxide leaks into your home. In this article, we’ll go into detail about how these devices work to answer the question of whether smoke alarms will go off when there is carbon monoxide present.

The Difference Between Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

While smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors can save your life, it’s important to understand that they work differently and aren’t the same. A standard smoke alarm works by detecting airborne particulates found in smoke, which means it can’t detect carbon monoxide since it is a gas.

A carbon monoxide detector works by producing a chemical reaction inside the unit. This reaction causes the electrical current flowing through the unit to spike, which then sets off the alarm. While both units work differently, you can find combination units that can detect both the presence of smoke and carbon monoxide.

Where Should Smoke Alarms and CO Detectors Be Installed?

The general rule is that you should have smoke alarms either inside every bedroom in your home or just outside all your bedroom doors. You should also ensure you have at least one smoke alarm on every floor of your home. Most experts recommend having more than one unit on each floor unless your home is small.

The recommendation for carbon monoxide detectors is to have one unit near each bedroom and sleeping area. If all your bedrooms are close together, you can usually just put one detector out in the hallway near the bedroom doors. However, you want to ensure the detector is within 10–15 feet of each bedroom door to ensure everyone gets woken up if the alarm goes off. If you decide to install combination smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, you can just put one unit out in the hallway near each bedroom.

As with smoke alarms, you also want to ensure at least one carbon monoxide detector on every floor. You’re generally better off having a detector in every common area of your home, i.e., the kitchen, living room, dining room, office, garage, etc. In addition, you should also install one detector around 15 feet away from every gas-burning appliance, such as a furnace, water heater, etc. If you have a wood-burning stove, you also need a detector near it.

You want the detectors around 15 feet away from gas appliances to reduce the risk of false alarms. If the detector is too close, it may occasionally go off when the appliance lights, even though there isn’t a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

The Importance of Testing Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors have a limited lifespan and can suddenly fail without you knowing it. That’s why you should get into the habit of monthly testing every unit in your house. Every unit will have a test button that either temporarily sets off the alarm or makes the unit beep when you press it. If nothing happens when you press the button, it usually indicates that the unit is dead and needs to be replaced immediately.

With battery-powered units, there is also a chance that the batteries are dead and need replacing. However, this is fairly rare since the unit should start making a chirping or beeping noise every few seconds once the batteries start to run low to alert you that you need to change them.

While some battery-powered units still use AA batteries or a 9-volt battery, most units sold nowadays instead have a sealed lithium-ion battery. With this type of unit, the battery cannot be replaced. That means you know it’s time to replace the entire unit once it starts chirping to let you know the battery is dying.

How Long Do Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Detectors Last?

Smoke alarms usually have a lifespan of 10 years, while carbon monoxide detectors typically last for anywhere from five to 10 years, depending on the type and brand. When you buy a new unit, it will have a label somewhere where you write the date it was installed.

This is important since it allows you to know exactly how old the unit is so that you know when it’s time to replace it. Many newer units also have an LED light that will start blinking red when the unit has reached the end of its life, and some will also start making a chirping or beeping sound every 30 seconds to let you know that the unit should be replaced.

Battery vs. Hard-Wired Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Many people opt for battery-powered smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. This is partly because they are less expensive, and you can easily install or replace them. While battery-powered units aren’t necessarily a bad choice, hard-wired units are considered safer. Hard-wired units need to be installed by an electrician, but it is well worth the cost for their added safety.

One reason experts recommend hard-wired units is that many people forget to change the batteries in their units and instead simply take the old ones out once the unit starts constantly chirping. The main reason why hard-wired units are much safer is that every alarm and detector in the home is wired together and interconnected.

If you have battery units, you may not always hear when one unit goes off in a different part of the home, especially if you’re asleep. It can then take some time for the smoke or carbon monoxide to travel through your home and set off any other units. This is an especially big concern if a fire starts since it may spread before you’re aware of it and end up trapping you inside.

The fact that hard-wired units are interconnected means that every unit in your home will immediately start sounding an alarm when one unit detects smoke or carbon monoxide and goes off. This means that you’ll be aware that there’s a fire or the presence of carbon monoxide in your home much quicker so that you can immediately get you and your family outside.

Another thing to understand about hard-wired units is that they all have a battery backup. This ensures that the unit will still work even if your power goes out. It also provides an added layer of protection since it is extremely unlikely that the batteries will fail and your power will go out at the same time. However, it also means that you need to test hard-wired units monthly to ensure the battery backup works.

AJ Danboise Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electrical has been serving the Farmington Hills area since 1925. We’re ready to help if you need smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors installed or any other electrical repair service. We also specialize in whole-home surge protection, heating, air conditioning, and plumbing, so call us for all your home service needs.

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