Carbon Monoxide Alarms vs. Fire Alarms

October 18, 2018 by

Having both a monitored carbon monoxide alarm and a smoke detector in your home can be the difference between life and death. Both devices have merit and are inexpensive, so there’s no excuse not to maximize your home protection efforts. Here, we will analyze the differences between carbon monoxide alarms and fire alarms and why it is imperative that you install at least one of each in your home in order to ensure the safety of your loved ones.

Carbon monoxide alarms and smoke detectors


What Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors Do

A smoke detector will go off when it is exposed to either smoke or fire. As for carbon monoxide detectors, they work by alerting residents of high amounts of carbon monoxide in their home. Exposure to carbon monoxide is no joke, as sufficient amounts can lead to permanent brain and respiratory damage, as well as death. There are also many common house appliances and devices that emit carbon monoxide gas, such as ovens, space heaters, gas stoves, and water heaters.

Carbon monoxide poisoning also manifests in symptoms that many mistake for the flu, such as confusion, nausea, lightheadedness, dizziness, and headaches. As such, many ignore the symptoms until it is too late. So if you suddenly feel like you have the flu, you may want to check your appliances for leaks. Of course, you wouldn’t have to check if you had a functioning carbon monoxide alarm installed in your home.

Why They are Important to Own

Many people don’t purchase a fire alarm, or decide to not have their old one replaced, because they feel that it would be easy to detect a fire. For instance, they may claim that they would be able to smell the smoke and see the flames in the event of a fire. However, what many don’t realize is that the vast majority of people who die in fires don’t actually die from the flames, but succumb to smoke inhalation. As such, a person who is sleeping may never wake up if they inhale sufficient amounts of smoke while asleep.

Carbon monoxide also claims many of its victims in the same way, only, unlike smoke, carbon monoxide gas cannot be detected without a carbon monoxide alarm. When carbon monoxide gas enters your lungs it will actually replace the oxygen in your blood, releasing noxious chemicals into your cells rather than the oxygen that they need to thrive. Moreover, carbon monoxide gas, unlike smoke, is odourless, tasteless, and colourless, so unless you have a functioning carbon monoxide alarm in your home you won’t see it coming until it is too late.

Ionization Detectors

A smoke detector can detect smoke via two methods. For instance, ionization detectors work by transferring a minute electrical current from diode to diode. Then, when smoke interrupts the aforementioned electrical current, the alarm is activated. There are also more advanced fire alarms on the market that are able to sense heat in addition to smoke.

Photoelectric Detectors

Another type of smoke alarm currently available on the market is the photoelectric detector. These detectors work by utilizing a light sensor that sounds an alarm whenever smoke penetrates the beam of light.

Biomimetic Sensors

Carbon monoxide alarms work in three different ways. For instance, many contain a biomimetic sensor with a gel that will actually changecolour when it is exposed to carbon monoxide gas. In the event that the gel changes colour, the detector, which monitors for colour fluctuations, will trigger an alarm to warn the residents.

Metal Oxide Semiconductors

There are also carbon monoxide alarms that use a semiconductor made of metal oxide instead. Moreover, the semiconductor contains silica and is similar to electronic circuit board chips. Interestingly, silica is actually sensitive to carbon monoxide gas. Hence, when carbon monoxide is detected, the current that is passing through the device is reduced in order to activate the alarm.

Electrochemical Sensors

Another option available to homeowners is the carbon monoxide alarm with an electrochemical sensor. These units contain electrodes that are engulfed in a chemical solution. When the chemical solution is exposed to the toxic gas, the electrodes detect the change in the solution and activate the alarm.

Where to Install Them

An alarm is only useful if you can hear it or if it is monitored. As such, if you sleep on the top floor of your home, then it is best that you avoid installing it on the lower floor or in the basement, as you will likely not be able to hear it when asleep. That having been said, it is recommended that you install at least one fire alarm in or near each bedroom of the home, as well as on each floor, which includes your attic and basement, if applicable.

The same is recommended for carbon monoxide alarms, which you should also install close to your furnaces, near gas appliances, and outside of your garage. You should also install one near your wood burning fireplace if you own one, as they can produce dangerous amounts of carbon monoxide gas.

Carbon monoxide alarms and smoke detectors save lives. Remember to test them every month to ensure they are still working as intended,and opt for a lithium-ion battery unit if you can, as they usually only need to have their battery replaced once every five to 8 years.Finally, if you decide to hardwire your carbon monoxide alarms and smoke detectors, then you should wire them together. That way, if one of them is triggered it will start a chain reaction and they will all go off.

To learn more about how to protect you, call Canadian Security Professionals at 1-877-494-9911, or contact us here.

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