Although carbon monoxide poisoning is a preventable illness, it still manages to kill hundreds of Americans every year. In fact, the CDC reports that approximately 430 people across the United States suffer from fatal CO poisoning every year. What’s more, another approximately 50,000 end up in the emergency room because of poisoning symptoms.

As winter weather and the heating season starts in earnest, the risk of carbon monoxide inhalation increases. In August 2020, we completed a survey to find out more about how Nebraska residents are protecting themselves and their families from the dangers of CO gas. Our survey reached out to 100 male and female Nebraskans, ages 18-65+.

What the Survey Results Revealed

The 100 Nebraskans we reached out to for the survey understood that carbon monoxide is a potentially deadly gas. And yet at the same time, many homeowners didn’t own enough carbon monoxide detectors or test the alarms they did have.

Nearly Half of Survey Respondents Only Have One Carbon Monoxide Detector

Of the Nebraskans we surveyed, about 72% reported they own their home, with 41% using a gas furnace for their heating. 38% of respondents use another type of heating system.

While not everyone we reached out to uses a gas furnace for their heating, the majority of respondents still knew what carbon monoxide is. Responses described the substance as a poisonous or dangerous gas.

In gas furnaces, the combustion process is what generates the carbon monoxide. As long as your furnace is functioning properly, the CO gas is safely trapped in the heat exchanger before being vented outside through the flue pipes. If something has damaged or clogged these components, the CO gas can instead flow back into your home.

One reason many homeowners are caught off guard by CO gas is because they think this problem couldn’t happen to them. But of the Nebraskans we surveyed, nearly 10% responded that they may have dealt with CO gas in their homes at one point or another.

A particularly dangerous aspect of CO gas is that there’s no discernible carbon monoxide smell. It’s also colorless, making it extremely difficult to notice without a dedicated alarm system.

Out of the Nebraskans we reached out to for the survey, roughly 88% have at least one carbon monoxide detector somewhere in their home. But based on safety recommendations for limiting the risk of CO gas, nearly half of homeowners don’t have enough alarms.

Here are the statistics for how many CO detectors respondents have:

  • One detector—50%
  • Two detectors—30.5%
  • Three detectors—4.7%
  • Four or more detectors—2.6%

At A-1 United, we encourage every home to have at least one detector on each floor. According to official guidelines from the International Association of Fire Chiefs, you should place a detector within 10 feet of each bedroom as well as a detector in the basement. If you have an attached garage, you should also install a detector near or above it. When deciding carbon monoxide detector placement, the EPA recommends installing them at least 5 feet above the floor or even on the ceiling.

A common misconception many people is that carbon monoxide is heavier than air. But in actuality, CO gas is slightly lighter than air, which is why you install the detectors higher up. Carbon monoxide often gets swept up with rising warm air, so placing the alarms near the ceiling ensures dangerous levels are noticed right away.

When carbon monoxide reaches harmful concentrations, the most common symptoms of poisoning resemble symptoms of the flu. You could experience headaches and dizziness as well as bouts of nausea and vomiting. Continued exposure to larger amounts of CO gas have the potential to be fatal, which is why a working detector system is so important. That way you don’t assume the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning are from another illness.

The Most Popular Detectors Are Plug-In and Battery-Powered Models

There are multiple types of carbon monoxide detectors, including plug-in models as well as battery-powered alarms. Out of the Nebraskans we surveyed:

  • 10% use a plug-in carbon monoxide detector
  • 30% prefer a battery-powered carbon monoxide detector
  • 16% use a combined smoke and carbon monoxide detector
  • No one surveyed uses a smart carbon monoxide detector such as the Google Nest Protect
  • 30% weren’t sure what type of detector their homes had

While battery-powered or plug-in carbon monoxide detectors are the most popular options, more people are choosing smart carbon monoxide detectors. Their reliability and Wi-Fi compatibility are making it where smart alarms are some of the best carbon monoxide detectors for protecting your home.

Even though smart detectors are generally more expensive than traditional models, they offer lots of convenient features for monitoring your home. For example, many smart alarms include smoke detection and can connect with other smart home devices for more comprehensive protection.

Here are just a few other benefits for installing a smart carbon monoxide detector:

  • You don’t have to worry about being scared by the sudden beeping of the alarm going off. Smart detectors send notifications to your phone or alert you via an automated voice.
  • You also don’t have to worry about tracking down the problem area. Smart alarms can notify you where the CO gas was detected.
  • Smart alarms are easy to mute, with the option to do so through your phone.
  • The annoying low battery or sensor alerts are replaced with a quiet notification sent to your phone. Smart carbon monoxide detectors can even test their own sensors and batteries.

Every Month? Every Year? Only 8% Test Their Detectors Often Enough

Without a smart alarm, you’ll have to test it yourself and replace the batteries when they die. Out of the Nebraskans we surveyed, the vast majority aren’t testing their alarms enough:

  • 8% test monthly, as suggested by manufacturers
  • 5% test twice a year
  • 3% test annually
  • 17% have never tested their alarms

Nearly Half of Respondents Didn’t Know That Carbon Monoxide Detectors Expire

Just like smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors should be replaced on a regular basis. Ultimately how often you need to do so depends on the specific model. The average life span of a carbon monoxide detector is five to seven years, but smart alarms can last up to 10 years.

Out of the Nebraskans we reached out to for the survey, 47% weren’t aware that they’d need to replace expired detectors. Fortunately, most detectors will alert you when they’re reaching the end of their life span with five beeps every 60 seconds or so.

Detectors often also beep when they need batteries or are wearing out. You should hear a chirp roughly every minute if so. Try replacing the batteries and do so every month according to official recommendations from manufacturers. You’ll only need to check or replace the batteries every six months if your carbon monoxide detector is hardwired or plugged into the wall.

Your family’s safety and comfort is the number one priority for everyone at A-1 United Heating, Air & Electrical. When we’re handling your heating and cooling services, we do so because we’re passionate, not just because it’s our job. If you’re considering installing more carbon monoxide detectors including smart models, our expert team would be glad to help. To schedule an appointment, contact us by phone at 402-593-7500 today.