Carbon Monoxide Detector

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Carbon Monoxide Detector Lifespan

Types Of Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Laura Ginn Photo By Laura Ginn on October 20, 2013

Since carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless and cannot be tasted, its presence can only be determined through the use of a detector made for that specific purpose. A smoke alarm cannot perform this task (although there are some dual smoke alarm/carbon monoxide detectors on the market). Since the gas can cause damage to the body, and even death, it is important to protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning through early warning by a detector, before the concentration builds enough to present a danger.

Carbon monoxide is created by the incomplete combustion of any fuel, whether gas, coal, petrol or even wood. The molecules enter the body through the lungs where they attach themselves to the red blood cells (hemoglobin), where they are 240 times more attractive than the oxygen that the cells should be carrying. The result is oxygen starvation throughout the body, including the brain. Depending upon the concentration of carbon monoxide in the air, the results can range from a headache and fatigue to death. Even if a person who has suffered carbon monoxide poisoning is evacuated from the area, after recover he or she may continue to suffer a range of after-effects. On average, 25, 000 people a year in the UK are poisoned by carbon monoxide, with the majority suffering acute enough effects to require hospitalisation for at least overnight.

This is why a dependable method of detecting the build-up of carbon monoxide is so vitally important. There are a number of technologies used in carbon monoxide detectors, each of which offers certain advantages and drawbacks.

Electrochemical

The dominant type of carbon monoxide detector in the UK and throughout Europe, this type uses a fuel cell through which a current is run. There are two electrodes and an electrolyte (typically sulfuric acid); on one electrode the carbon monoxide is oxidized, while the other consumes oxygen. This allows the sensor to note even low levels of carbon monoxide, even well below dangerous concentrations. When the level of carbon monoxide reaches a level at which notice should be given, however, the electrical circuit is completed and the alarm is sounded. This type of sensor is very accurate and most models come with a digital readout and a memory function, to allow the user to track the levels of the gas over time. This type of detector tends to be more expensive than others, however.

Biometric

This type of detector uses a liquid that mimics human blood. It's not quite as bad as it sounds: The solution consists of a sugar compound with metal salts and a chemical that changes color in the presence of a dangerous concentration of carbon monoxide. An infrared beam targets the liquid, with a photodiode on the opposite side: When the liquid turns darker in reaction to the presence of carbon monoxide, the infrared beam is broken and the alarm sounds. It is a reliable technology, but it only offers a "threshold" warning, when the level of carbon dioxide reaches a particular level.

Semiconductor

One of the original technologies used in carbon monoxide detection, the semiconductor style uses a strong current flowing through wires of tin dioxide, monitored by an integrated circuit. When levels of carbon dioxide are high, the circuit is completed and the alarm sounds. This type of detector requires more electricity than can be delivered by a battery, so it has to be hooked up to the home wiring. Many models offer a battery back-up in case the power goes out. Most models are rated to last up to 10 years.

Some detectors also have separate warning devices that are linked to the unit via wireless technology. These include vibrating pads that can be placed on the pillow to wake a sleeper during a carbon monoxide emergency. Handsets and different types of lights and sound alarms are also available.

It should be noted that all carbon monoxide detectors have a limited useful life. When purchasing and installing a detector, read the manufacturer's instructions on the recommended lifespan of the unit and replace it on time. Having a carbon monoxide detector which may or may not work only gives a sense of false security. Also remember that the test button only determines that the battery and power circuits are still active, not that the detection mechanism works.

Original article published on SooperArticles.com

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