The last thing you want for yourself and your loved ones is to be poisoned by carbon monoxide right in your very home. So you decided to do away with the use of natural gas, propane, and gas appliances and then switch to all-electric devices.
But are you safe now from carbon monoxide’s adverse effects if you don’t use fuel burning appliances? Or do you still need carbon monoxide detectors in your home even if you’re all electric? It’s normal to ask, “Do I need a carbon monoxide detector in an all electric house?”
YES. There are at least three crucial reasons why you may still need a carbon monoxide alarm in an all electric house: 1) Other outside sources can produce carbon monoxide and affect your family’s health and well-being. For instance, your neighbors may use a generator or a poorly-running car or propane grill close to your home. 2) The local government in your area may still require the installation of a carbon monoxide detector especially if you decide to sell your home in the future. 3) Your own car may still be running on gas and you have an attached garage.
Not having fuel-burning appliances indoors does not mean you will never be exposed to the dangers of carbon monoxide. CO is odorless, tasteless, and colorless which makes it virtually untraceable without the help of a carbon monoxide detector.
Do Electric Appliances Produce Carbon Monoxide?
To answer this question we have to know some basic information about the infamous carbon monoxide–how it is produced and what are its typical sources.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an exceptionally toxic gas made up of one carbon atom and one oxygen atom. It may also come in the form of a liquid called cryogenic liquid when it reaches the temperature of -314° Fahrenheit or -192° Celcius, also in solid form at -337.27° F or -205.15° C (68 deg K). CO in any form is highly dangerous to humans and animals.
How is carbon monoxide being produced?
First of all, let’s be clear that, unlike most common gases we know, carbon monoxide is not typically produced in nature. Unless we are talking about volcanic eruptions and lightning, most causes of CO production are man-made such as 85% of forest fires, the mining of coal, and in the modern day, the use of gas-powered appliances.
The making of carbon monoxide starts with the combustion or burning process. When the combustion is referred to as complete or clean, there is an abundant supply of air, specifically oxygen, to combine with carbon. The byproducts are only water and carbon dioxide (one carbon atom, two oxygen atoms). Both of these elements are safe and even helpful to the environment.
However, when there is not enough oxygen in the air, there are not enough oxygen atoms to pair with the increasing carbon atoms as the burning progresses. This is called “incomplete combustion.” The carbon is paired with only at least one oxygen atom.
Et voila! Carbon monoxide is born. And unlike its harmless cousin carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide is lethal.
Back to the original question, “Do electric appliances produce carbon monoxide?”
NO. Electrical appliances do not produce carbon monoxide because they are not powered by the burning of any fuel, gas, or combustible materials of any kind.
What electrical home appliances do is when electrical energy in the form of electricity passes through them, they convert it to mechanical energy for those with moving parts, or heat energy for those that should produce heat or warmth. As they rely solely on electricity to operate, electrical appliances are considered safer as they do not produce carbon monoxide in their normal operations.
We now go back to our original theory: If you decide to switch to all-electric appliances, does this mean you no longer need a carbon monoxide detector?
Do You Need Carbon Monoxide Detector If There’s No Gas
Believe it or not, you STILL NEED a carbon monoxide detector in your home even if you live in an all-electric home. How so?
There are at least three reasons:
- Carbon monoxide does not have to be produced INSIDE your home for you to be poisoned by it. Outside sources can produce carbon monoxide and expose you to poisoning and impact your family’s health and safety. As an example, your neighbors may use a generator or a poorly-running propane grill close to your home. Because these gas-powered appliances have the potential to produce carbon monoxide, it can spill onto some openings in your house like an open door, windows, or sizable cracks.
- Nearly all states in America require carbon monoxide detectors in residential, public, and nonpublic dwellings and offices. Local governments recognize the serious threat carbon monoxide poses to the citizens’ well-being. States such as California observe the Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act of 2010, Illinois obeys Carbon Monoxide Alarm Detector Act, and Pennsylvania requires its residents to heed the Carbon Monoxide Alarm Standards Act.
Even if you live in an all electric home, it is still a wise investment to install carbon monoxide detectors. In the event that you want to sell your house, these CO alarms will add value to your property and makes it easier to market. For instance, Washington state law requires that homes have a carbon monoxide detector when they’re sold.
- Vehicles that run on gas and are parked near your home or in an attached garage can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. You may have switched to all electric appliances but your car could still be running on gas. Automobiles that have internal combustion gasoline engines are great generators of CO. Even a properly tuned car has the potential to produce more than 30,000 parts per million (ppm) of carbon monoxide!
How Can You Get Carbon Monoxide Poisoning When You Live In An All Electric Home?
Based on all the points presented above, being poisoned by carbon monoxide is still possible without fuel-burning appliances inside your home. Because the real threat about CO is its sneaky properties.
Carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless, and tasteless. This makes it a lot scarier to deal with because you have no way of knowing if it has already entered your home. Unlike natural gas and propane which manufacturers can add odorants so you can smell if there’s a leak, it is impossible to trace without a carbon monoxide detector.
Additionally, carbon monoxide is slightly lighter than air. This means that it can easily mix with your family’s breathing air and cause unpleasant and deadly symptoms.
When is a Carbon Monoxide Alarm Required?
If you are still not convinced that you absolutely need a CO detector installed in your home, you should check with your local authorities whether it is required for you to install a carbon monoxide alarm.
Currently, a total of 48 states have some form of mandate in their legislation requiring the installation of carbon monoxide detectors. So one way or another, you will find a law, act, or code that orders residents to have CO alarms installed not just in their homes, but in schools, care facilities, any enclosed space, dwelling, or building, even on motorboats.