Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are something every home should have, and the reason for this should be obvious, as both devices can save your life. In the US, house fires kill around seven people a day on average, and most of these deaths result from smoke inhalation. Carbon monoxide poisoning also kills more than 400 Americans each year, and more than 100,000 people end up in the emergency room due to carbon monoxide exposure. The easiest way to reduce the risk of a deadly house fire or carbon monoxide poisoning is to ensure that your home has working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. This guide will show you where your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors should be installed and also help you understand the importance of regular carbon monoxide testing.
Where Should Smoke Alarms Be Installed?
Texas fire code requires that all single-family dwellings have working smoke alarms. If your home doesn’t have smoke alarms and you’re planning on selling it, you will be legally required to have them installed before the final closing date, or else you won’t be able to sell. Ideally, you should have one smoke alarm in the hallway outside your bedrooms and additional alarms in each bedroom. You are legally required to have at least one smoke alarm in the basement and on each floor, but it’s usually better to have multiple alarms on each floor in different parts of the home just to be safe.
How to Know if Your Home Needs Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Carbon monoxide is completely odorless and colorless, so you won’t know if it is present unless your home has carbon monoxide detectors. Every home should have at least a few carbon monoxide detectors, as most houses have one or more gas-burning appliances. If you have a gas furnace, water heater, fireplace, cook stove, or oven, you are always best to have one CO detector in the hallway near your bedrooms and additional detectors near each gas-burning appliance. Even if your home is all electric, it’s still recommended that you install carbon monoxide detectors, as CO can seep inside the home from an attached garage or from outside.
Texas updated its building codes in 2021 to require all homes built in or after 2022 to install carbon monoxide detectors. If you’re planning on renovating your house or adding it, you will also need to install CO detectors to pass the final building inspection, as the requirement also applies to any newly renovated homes. It’s important to note that the new building codes don’t apply retroactively, so you’re not legally required to install carbon monoxide detectors if your home was built before 2022. That said, we would highly recommend installing them if your home doesn’t have them, as this will make it much safer and help protect your family against potentially fatal carbon monoxide poisoning.
The building code requires you to have one CO detector on every floor of the home, including the basement. If you have a large, spread-out home, you may be better off having two or more detectors on each level at the opposite ends of the house.
You must also have additional detectors within 10 feet of each bedroom and sleeping area. If you have two or three bedrooms at the end of a hallway, you can usually just install one detector on the ceiling as long as it is within 10 feet of all the bedroom doors. The only exception is if you have a bedroom on an upper level above an attached garage, as CO detectors should never be installed inside or above a garage. If you have a large master bedroom and your sleeping area is more than 10 feet from the bedroom door, installing the detector inside the room is better than out in the hallway.
Every gas-burning appliance should have a carbon monoxide detector installed around 15 to 20 feet from the appliance. If you have a gas furnace and gas water heater located near each other in a utility room or mechanical room, you’re usually fine just to have one detector that will work for both appliances. The detectors must be at least 15 feet away from the appliance to prevent the alarm from unnecessarily triggering when low levels of carbon monoxide are present. Burning wood also produces carbon monoxide. As such, you should also have carbon monoxide detectors near any wood-burning fireplaces or stoves.
The Importance of Having Your Gas Appliances Inspected and Tested
Many people don’t understand that neither natural gas nor propane normally gives off carbon monoxide when burned. Both fuels burn cleanly and produce no carbon monoxide as long as the gas fully combusts. The issue is that gas-burning appliances can have various issues resulting in the gas not combusting fully and burning cleanly. For instance, clogged burners on a furnace or water heater can lead to incomplete combustion and result in the unit giving off carbon monoxide.
Having your gas-burning appliances professionally inspected at least once a year is essential for reducing the risk of carbon monoxide issues. If you have a gas furnace, the technician will always fully clean the burners to ensure the unit burns cleanly. They will also test to ensure this is the case and that the unit isn’t producing carbon monoxide. It is also important to fully inspect your furnace’s heat exchanger. Heat exchangers can crack due to wear and tear and aging, allowing the combustion fumes and possibly carbon monoxide to escape from the heat exchanger and flow into your ductwork. Should this happen, your heating system will circulate the CO into your bedrooms and every other room in the home.
It is also important to inspect all of your exhaust flues and chimneys to ensure they aren’t clogged and are properly venting the combustion fumes from the appliance outside. If the appliance’s exhaust flue or chimney was designed and installed properly and isn’t clogged, the carbon monoxide typically won’t be an issue as it will always be drawn up through the flue and safely vented outside. However, birds and pests will often nest inside the flue if the appliance sits unused for some time, which can get clogged to where the combustion fumes and carbon monoxide can’t flow outside and start leaking back into the home. The flue can also easily get clogged with leaves and debris, leading to the same issue.
Scheduling a furnace inspection each fall is essential for reducing the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and ensuring your heating system works efficiently and effectively. At Bacon Plumbing Heating Air Electric, our certified technicians have years of experience in furnace maintenance. We work on all furnace brands and models and offer professional heating repair and installation services. Our team of licensed plumbers can also inspect and service your gas water heater to help reduce the risk of CO poisoning. For more information on how you can prevent carbon monoxide poisoning or if you need any HVAC, plumbing, or electrical service in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, call us today.