Carbon Monoxide Detector Placement

By
Home Inspector with Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC 3380-000723

Carbon monoxide detector placement.

That title surrounds a question I get a lot during home inspections.  And this one -

Is carbon monoxide lighter or heavier than air?

Of course, any time you have gas appliances or a wood-burning fireplace, you should have at least one carbon monoxide (CO) detector in the home.

CO is odorless, tasteless and DOES NOT GIVE WARNING that it is being produced or building up.

And, is it lighter or heavier than air?  Which means, does it rise or fall when produced?

Since the molecular weights of gases differ, what makes them move is convection.  If a gas is released because of combustion, it would tend to rise due to its heat.

CARBON MONOXIDE HAS NEARLY THE DENSITY OF AIR.  CO is slightly lighter.   You can figure this out.  For example:

O=16   C=12   N=14   H=2

You would add things to get the pure density of gasses.

H2 = 1+1 = 2 (very light)
O2 = 16+16 = 32 (slightly heavy)
N2 = 14+14 = 28 (about neutral)
CO2 = 12+16+16 = 44 (heavy)
CO = 12+16 = 28 (about neutral)
H2O = 1+1+16 = 18 (light) - as in humidity or steam
Radon = 222 (very heavy)

So what is the density of air?  The air we breathe is composed of 80% Nitrogen, 19% Oxygen, .6% inert gases and .4% Carbon Dioxide.

N2 + O2 + CO2 = ?
.8(28) + .196(32) + .004(44) = 28.9 (by definition air is neutral)

 

So how does CO compare with air?  It is 3% lighter.  So it distributes very easily through a house.

 

But when CO is produced, it immediately begins mixing, and therefore diluting, with the air around it.  Therefore, it mixes with nitrogen, which doesn't burn, oxygen, which is burned creating the CO, H2O (humidity) and CO2 which are in the air.  So the CO produced is not in pure form in the air.  It is very diluted.  And as CO is produced, it is warmer than the air around it.

So what is the most advantageous place to put a CO detector?  CO moves with the air, so where the air is flowing it will go also.  It is very unpredictable where the air, and therefore CO, will move at any given time.  That is why the instructions with the unit you buy do not say to place it high or low on the wall.

Understanding all that, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) suggests in 720, 2-1.1.2* 1998 -

"A carbon monoxide alarm or detector should be centrally located outside of each separated sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms. Where bedrooms are separated and the audibility of the alarm or detector to occupants within the bedroom area could be seriously impaired, more than one unit could be needed. Each alarm or detector should be located on the wall, ceiling, or other location as specified in the installation instructions that accompany the unit."

 

Which detector should you buy?

The suggestion is one that is plugged in and preferably with a battery back up.  These detectors use electrochemical technology to detect CO gas.  Like smoke detectors, they are effective for 10 years.

A local Fire Marshall, my neighbor, told me that the plug-in detectors seem to have a better record for fewer false positives than do the battery-only detectors.  But that is his experience!  

My recommendation:  buy a good plug-in detector!  If you want, get one with a battery back up.  Put it near any potential CO source and another near your bedroom(s).  Be sure everyone will hear it.

 

And you will be safe and feel safe. 

Posted by

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


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Re-Blogged 3 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Barbara Todaro 10/08/2018 04:17 AM
  2. Roy Kelley 12/28/2018 01:00 AM
  3. Sally K. & David L. Hanson 10/08/2018 06:37 PM
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Rainmaker
1,780,421
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Thank  you Sharon.  Glad you found the post!

Oct 09, 2018 08:03 AM #30
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Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Jay- well deserved feature for this one. We all buy these detectors but you are the first explanation I've seen about where to place it and whether to buy a plug-in or battery operated one. With all of these available to us, we need to take advantage and prevent any more needless deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning. 

Oct 09, 2018 08:11 AM #31
Rainmaker
582,186
Mike McCann - Nebraska Farm Land Broker
Mike McCann - Broker, Farmland Broker-Auctioneer Serving Rural Nebraska - Kearney, NE
Farm Land For Sale 308-627-3700 or 800-241-3940

Hi Jay Markanich   Thank you for bringing this subject back to light at this time of the year. We have gas everything...(even myself on occassion).  We have numerous detectors throughout our home as the furnace and water heater are in the basement and the gas stove and garage are on the main floor.  

I talk frequently with clients and others about detectors and am amazed at how many do NOT have them.

Are they fail safe?   No...but just like with smoke detectors, they are a heckuva a lot better than not having one at all.

I just had clients buy 2 apartment complexes and strongly suggested they put carbon monoxide detectors in each unit and the hallways since the furnaces of one of the units are located in the hallways.

Yes...they were grandfathered in to the previous owners but now become a requirement...although we all know a requirement does not always mean adherence.

Thanks again!!

Oct 09, 2018 08:41 AM #32
Rainmaker
2,068,906
Elizabeth Weintraub Sacramento Real Estate Agent, Top 1% of Lyon Agents
Lyon Real Estate - Sacramento, CA
Put 40 years of experience to work for you

We need a carbon monoxide detector on each level in California. It poses issues with step-down rooms, but I tell sellers just install it anyway. It is only twenty bucks and solves all sorts of issues with appraisers and their opinions.

Oct 09, 2018 12:58 PM #33
Rainmaker
1,780,421
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

There are some good ones out there, Kathy.  I use Kidde.

Thank you, Mike.  And adherence to any principle is the basis for the principle's success.

Better safe than sorry, Elizabeth.  If there is one on every level then good - and why not?

Oct 09, 2018 03:53 PM #34
Rainmaker
390,520
Tom Bailey
Margaret Rudd & Associates Inc. - Oak Island, NC

Jay, I live in a condo with no gas or wood burning units. We have parking on the ground floor, but it is open. Is there any real need for a detector?

Oct 09, 2018 04:24 PM #35
Rainmaker
1,780,421
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

I would think not, Tom, but I really don't know!

Oct 09, 2018 04:36 PM #36
Rainmaker
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Greg Large
ERA Real Solutions - Grove City, OH
A Tradition of Trust

Thanks for the informative and detailed and timely post on the subject. Think I will add these as Christmas gifts for my kids this year.

Oct 09, 2018 08:14 PM #37
Rainmaker
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Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Anytime Greg.   And that's a good idea too!

Oct 10, 2018 12:44 AM #38
Rainmaker
1,235,338
Kat Palmiotti
Grand Lux Realty, Monroe NY, 914-419-0270, kat@thehousekat.com - Monroe, NY
The House Kat

This is great information to share. I like Greg Large 's suggestion to buy these as gifts!

Oct 10, 2018 03:11 AM #39
Rainer
444,070
Sham Reddy
H E R Realty, Dayton, OH - Dayton, OH
CRS

Thanks for sharing!!!

"A carbon monoxide alarm or detector should be centrally located outside of each separated sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms. Where bedrooms are separated and the audibility of the alarm or detector to occupants within the bedroom area could be seriously impaired, more than one unit could be needed. Each alarm or detector should be located on the wall, ceiling, or other location as specified in the installation instructions that accompany the unit."

Oct 10, 2018 03:40 AM #40
Rainmaker
1,780,421
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Kat - they're selling like pancakes!

Thanks Sham.

Oct 10, 2018 07:45 AM #41
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Joe Pryor
The Virtual Real Estate Team - Oklahoma City, OK
REALTOR® - Oklahoma Investment Properties

This is a post worth sharing for all of us. The builders I work with install them in every home.

Oct 10, 2018 03:51 PM #42
Rainmaker
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Mike Cooper
Cornerstone Business Group Inc - Winchester, VA
Your Winchester, VA Real Estate Sales Pro

Jay, that's a whole lot of valuable information in one post. Thanks for sharing. 

Oct 10, 2018 04:49 PM #43
Rainmaker
1,780,421
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

That would be a solid practice, Joe.  And thanks!

Oct 10, 2018 04:50 PM #44
Rainmaker
1,780,421
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Thanks Mike.  And I showed my work, professor!

Oct 10, 2018 04:51 PM #45
Rainer
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Sajy Mathew
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Lancaster, PA
Making your real estate dreams become a reality!

Congrats on the feature arcticle and thanks for sharing such important information.  Hoping this helps motivate people to include this item in their home safety features.

Oct 11, 2018 07:08 AM #46
Rainmaker
1,780,421
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Thanks Sajy.  Every home with combustible appliances should have CO detectors.

Oct 11, 2018 10:04 AM #47
Rainmaker
2,967,203
Michael Jacobs
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Pasadena, CA
Los Angeles Pasadena Area Real Estate 818.516.4393

Hello Jay --- it's good to know what an expert thinks.  Good information. 

Oct 12, 2018 08:45 AM #48
Rainmaker
1,780,421
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Thank you, Michael, for that very nice compliment.

Oct 12, 2018 01:29 PM #49
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Rainmaker
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Jay Markanich

Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia
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