It’s something almost every home has, but you may well have never thought twice about the little device on your wall—except to change the batteries from time to time. However, that device could easily save your life. A carbon monoxide detector is a device that warns you if the air inside your home is filling up with a dangerous amount of carbon monoxide. Here is a guide to the small but crucial role that carbon monoxide detectors play in your life.
What is carbon monoxide? Carbon monoxide is a gas that cannot be seen, smelled, or tasted. This is a problem, because the gas is extremely dangerous to us. if you breathe in carbon monoxide, it goes into your blood cells just as oxygen would. Since it isn’t oxygen, however, carbon monoxide can’t nourish your cells—in fact, it blocks them from getting the oxygen they need. If you breathe in a lot of carbon monoxide, you can suffocate.
How do carbon monoxide detectors work? A carbon monoxide detector senses when the gas is in the surrounding air, and it causes an alarm to go off. Different detectors work in different ways; the alarm may be triggered by a gel changing color, by an electrochemical sensor, or by a metal oxide semiconductor. After the alarm has been set off, the detector will reset once there is no longer carbon monoxide in the air.
Where should a carbon monoxide detector be placed? To provide effective protection against poisoning, at least one carbon monoxide detector should be placed on each floor of your home. It should also be close to any areas of your home where people will be sleeping. There are rules that govern the placing of carbon monoxide detectors, so if you are moving into a new house, make sure that your detectors are in keeping with all relevant regulations.
What should I do if my detector goes off? Since carbon monoxide can fill a room very quickly, time is of the essence in responding to an alarm. Open your windows, if possible, and move everybody in the building outside immediately. If anybody is showing signs of carbon monoxide poisoning—such as dizziness, fatigue, or nausea—contact emergency services right away. Then, call a professional so that you can have your home inspected to find the source of the gas.
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