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Carbon Monoxide Alarm Problem

Posted by sidney4 (My Page) on
Sun, Jul 29, 12 at 12:21

I' m really not sure this is the forum for this but I know there are plenty of home builders on this forum who have had experience installing alarm systems and could direct me to the right kind of expert for advice/ service. You've been patient with my dumb questions before so I hope you can indulge me one more time.

Our house is two years old and we have been having problems with our carbon monoxide alarm going off. We have geothermal heating and only use gas for cooking and our fp. The first time it happened we did the prudent thing and called 911 and left the house. We also opened the up windows and doors on the way out. A battalion of emergency responders showed up and after two hours were not able to find any indication of elevated co levels. They suggested we might be experiencing a false positive. These are hardwired units with battery back up. We replaced all the batteries and called it good.

That was two weeks ago and since then we have had the alarm go off two more times. The second time we threw open a few windows ( just in case) and took one of the units outside to see if it continued to go off. It did for awhile but eventually stopped.

The third time was last night during the night and in this case I had done some thing really stupid. I left some thing on the stove on a very low simmer.

So ...I know I have a problem or multiple problems. I'm just not sure what it is or who I should be working with.

Do I have a faulty alarm that some times gives a false positive and coincidentally was triggered appropriately last night?

Has the alarm been working all along and the problem might be a problem with the range. I don't cook a lot so I typically don't have a burner on for any length of time. However, I had been using the range more then normal in each incident where the alarm was triggered.

Is it possible that a house could be too energy efficient and would allow low amounts of co to accumulate?

From what I've read, both the alarm system and the range should be new enough that they should still be in good working condition. I need to fix something ( including my cooking habits) but I would like to hone in on the most likely source of the problem before I start calling in service people. If the range is the problem than why would the technician who came to our house the first night not have detected elevated levels?

The fire department told us that every time the alarm goes off we should call 911 to be on the safe side but the service guy from the utility company didn't seem quite as concerned. I just know that the alarm will drive us crazy if we don't fix something and I can't see having the fire department come to my house every time the alarm goes off. I don't want to be the boy the cries wolf all the time.

If anyone has any experience with hard wired units such as ours I sure would appreciate your thoughts.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Carbon Monoxide Alarm Problem

Have you cleaned them? At times our smoke detectors have activated because a spider or some small insect found it's way inside. Dust can also be culprit. I now regularly vacuum all the detectors.

Hard wired units may also have a battery back-up that needs to be changed.

Although it's only a couple of years old, it may need to be replaced. We needed to replace 7 year old detectors a few years ago. Some do have an expiration date.

It could also be placed incorrectly. I wonder about how close it is to your stove?


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RE: Carbon Monoxide Alarm Problem

Buy a couple of standalone battery-operated units from HD or Lowes for confirmation.

If they all go off, then you know for sure you have a problem.

It's a very serious issue. I'm not sure I'd be staying in the house (or at least not without a couple windows open all the time) until it's figured out.


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RE: Carbon Monoxide Alarm Problem

Does your range run on propane or natural gas? Did it come from the factory set up for the correct fuel type or did it have to be converted on site? Who did the installation? Is the flame blue? Do you use external ventilation when cooking? How tight is your home? It's possible that even with external ventilation that your home is so tight that unless you have makeup air, your range vent cannot exhaust.


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RE: Carbon Monoxide Alarm Problem

Thanks for all your comments.Rrah,the fire department looked over the alarms carefully and the batteries are all new but I suppose it is possible that they could be worn out. I had hoped they would last longer than 2 years but i will look into it.

Chiefneil a tandem alarm is an excellent idea and would give me peace of mind if nothing else.

Green Design...these are very good questions and I can't answer all of them. Here is what I can answer. I have natural gas, I have external ventilation but was not using it in any of the above mentioned incidents and yes , my house is very tight.Should I always be using a fan when cooking with the range. I usually only use it when there is smoke, odors or I am frying some thing with a high flame.I will try to find answers to the other questions. If the problem is the range should I be calling the person who did the install or the manufacturers recommended service?


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RE: Carbon Monoxide Alarm Problem

Are all the detectors the same brand? I ask only because a neighbor had an addition put on and had new detectors connected up to the existing set. They got a lot of false positives, too (including at 3am, which was super annoying). They finally made the builder swap them out for the same brand as what was in the rest of the house and the errors stopped. They think that the "universal communication protocol" between all the units wasn't quite universal after all and the new ones either 'said' or 'heard' something that triggered all of them to go off.

That was the super frustrating piece for her, she couldn't tell which one thought it saw smoke because they all go off together.

Just a thought, I hope it gets settled out quickly. Those things are SO annoying when they don't work right.


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RE: Carbon Monoxide Alarm Problem

Thanks EngineerChic...they are all the same brand and you're right it is very frustrating. I think the worst thing for us to do is assume the problem is the alarm and ignore a more dangerous problem. To have an extra alarm as a back up test may help us with ruling out the detector as the problem.


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RE: Carbon Monoxide Alarm Problem

I forgot to mention that some friends had been having headaches for a few weeks before realizing they had a CO problem. They didn't have CO detectors.

Of course you don't want to rely on headaches as an indicator of a problem since you could just as easily pass out with very unpleasant consequences, but it's something to watch for.


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RE: Carbon Monoxide Alarm Problem

"I had hoped they would last longer than 2 years but i will look into it. "

Not likely unless they are lithium.

Typical dry cell batteries have a shelf life, even without an outside load.

Duracell marks theirs, but many others do not.

If the units use conventional 9 volt batteries just replace them every year.

There is NOT a charging circuit in the device, since most conventional dry cell batteries are NOT designed to be recharged.


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RE: Carbon Monoxide Alarm Problem

Brickeye..... Our system is hardwired and the back up battery system has all new batteries. I was questioning a useful life of only two years for the alarm system.

Chiefneil, the fire dept did run down the list of symptoms related to co poisoning. We have been experiencing many of them but we are in the fifty something age category so headaches and fatigue are an every day part of life :)

Thanks everyone,this has been a helpful discussion. I have made an appointment to have a technician check out our range and in the meantime we will set up a tandem alarm system to see if we rule out am alarm malfunction. I will let you know what we learn.


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