You felt so relieved when the new house you bought already had carbon monoxide detectors installed in them. But later you found out that those carbon monoxide alarms have been installed there for years.
Should you be worried? How long does a carbon monoxide detector last? Why do carbon monoxide detectors expire in the first place? How will you know if you need to replace your alarms’ batteries or replace the device altogether?
We know how important your family’s health and safety are to you so we want to give you clear and detailed answers to these questions.
How Long Does A Carbon Monoxide Alarm Last?
The average life expectancy of a carbon monoxide alarm is a minimum of 5 years to 7 years. In rare cases, carbon monoxide detectors can last up to 10 years. After years of use and exposure to carbon monoxide and other gases, the sensor becomes dull and loses its sensitivity to CO.
It is best to replace your carbon monoxide detectors every five to seven years to prevent safety issues and unpleasant false alarms due to system malfunctions.
Why Do Carbon Monoxide Alarms Expire?
We hate to say it but carbon monoxide detectors do not last forever. Regardless if you happen to buy a home that has CO alarms already installed in it or you purchased and installed them yourself, you have to be ready to replace them with new ones.
How can an electronic device such as carbon monoxide detectors expire? It may seem weird at first because these alarms around your home look neat and compact attached to your walls or ceilings, seemingly unbothered.
While it is true that the protective coverings or shells of carbon monoxide detectors are made of non-perishable plastic, the other components inside such alarms are subject to termination.
There are seven basic parts of a carbon monoxide alarm:
- Sensor. This is the most important part of the alarm because it measures how much carbon monoxide gas is in your home’s breathing air. When the CO gas indoors reached dangerous levels or a small amount of carbon monoxide has been present in the environment for a prolonged period, the sensor will be triggered.
- Microprocessor. This component serves as the middleman between the sensor and the alarm circuit. When the sensor sends the electronic signal to the microprocessor, the latter prompts the horn to sound a loud warning.
- Visual display or LCD panel. As the name suggests, this part of the carbon monoxide alarm communicates information to the homeowners about the device’s reading on the amount of CO inside the house or whether the device needs changing of the batteries, has system issues, or the alarm itself is at the end of its life.
- Alarm circuit. This is a crucial section of the CO alarm because it rings a very audible warning noise that alerts the household about the toxic intensity of carbon monoxide in its immediate area, urging everyone to evacuate.
- Power connection. Since carbon monoxide alarms are electronic devices, they need a power source to operate. Typical alarms are battery-operated or plugged into an electrical outlet. Some CO detector types are both plug-in and have batteries as backup, or are connected to the home security system.
- Circuit board. This part is also essential as it holds all the electronic components in place.
- Plastic housing. Commonly made out of a plastic shell, it protects the intricate inner workings of a carbon monoxide alarm.
These parts of a carbon monoxide alarm can degrade over time. But among them, the sensor is what mainly expires or ceases to function properly. After years of use and exposure to CO and other gases, the sensor becomes dull and loses its sensitivity to carbon monoxide in the air.
Why Should I Care If A Carbon Monoxide Detector Expires?
Some people install carbon monoxide alarms only because it is mandated by the government in most states in the US, but not fully realize their importance.
Carbon monoxide detectors are life-saving devices against carbon monoxide poisoning which kills more than 400 Americans each year and risks the lives of nearly 50,000 people with symptoms and CO-related illnesses.
Without the help of a fully-operational CO detector, carbon monoxide is almost impossible to detect. Because CO is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas, your family could be poisoned without you being the wiser.
If you decide to ignore a carbon monoxide detector that is about to expire and neglect to replace it, your only option is to rely on your body’s signal if you are already suffering from CO poisoning.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide sickness include:
- Difficulty in breathing
- Blurry vision
Prolonged exposure can even lead to brain damage, comatose, and ultimately, death.
So replacing your expired carbon monoxide alarms every ten years or less is critical for your safety and your family’s health inside your home, especially if you have heating appliances powered by gas or fuel.
How Can You Tell If A Carbon Monoxide Alarm Has Gone Bad?
The CO detector itself will tell you if it already requires a replacement. Authorities require that all carbon monoxide detectors manufactured after August 1, 2009, should have an expiration warning.
Most designs will signal their imminent termination by beeping every 30 seconds. This is called the “End-of-Life” warning. Some versions with LCD will also display “ERR” or “END” on its screen.
If you think you can ignore the beeping for a long time, think again. The loud beeps will persist until it runs out of battery or the alarm has been disconnected from the power source or home security mechanism.
Some may mistake the end-of-life warning for dying batteries. But if the persistent beeping continues even after replacing the batteries, you are looking at a carbon monoxide detector that is about to go bad.
How Often Should You Replace CO Alarms’ Batteries?
Speaking of batteries, you should also watch out if your carbon monoxide detectors’ batteries already need replacing.
On average, batteries of carbon monoxide alarms should be replaced every six months.
Please don’t confuse it with the life duration of smoke alarms’ batteries which require replacement after one year. Because a carbon monoxide warning device has a more complex structure than a fire alarm, it consumes more power and therefore the life of its batteries lasts slightly shorter.
How Do I Know If My Carbon Monoxide Detector Needs A New Battery?
A signal of four chirps will inform you that the batteries you installed in the detector are about to go out of service.
It is best not to wait until the low battery warning sounds. A simple and short test on your battery level every month will save you the hassle of frantically searching for fresh ones since you never want to go without your alarm.
How Often Should I Replace my Carbon Monoxide Detectors?
In conclusion, you should always keep in check when your carbon monoxide safety devices will expire. Whether you have these detectors in your residence or business areas, it is essential to replace them with fully-functional alarms.
Check the back of the detector for when it will expire. If that is not specifically indicated, see the day of manufacturing and add 5 to 7 years to it to know when will it cease to operate.
We strongly encourage you not to wait until the last minute before you check, test, and shop for a replacement for your alarms. Call your trusted certified technician to help you install CO detectors in your home and ensure your family’s safety.