Don’t ignore the beeping CO detector, it could save your life!

Today’s health post is a bit different from my usual ones, but I think it’s important and potentially life-saving.  We had some excitement in my house this weekend!  On Thursday night, one of the CO detectors in the house started beeping.  We changed the batteries and put it back on the ceiling.  A few hours later, it was beeping again.  There was some corrosion on the unit, it was near the end of its life cycle (5-7 years), and new CO detectors went on the honey-do list for my husband.  Just to be safe, I had him take one of the other units and put it where the beeping one had been, to see if it reset to zero.  The faulty unit was near our hot water heater, in our converted garage.  It was fine.

Friday was uneventful during the day.  Apparently while I was in the shower, the rest of the CO detectors started beeping.  While I could believe one unit failed, they all couldn’t be failing at the same time, even if they were all the same age.  We called the Long Beach Fire Department and asked their advice.  They came right over.  They had a handheld device that checks for CO, and it was beeping wildly through our house.  With their help, we aired out the house, and determined the hot water heater was the culprit.  They shut it off, and shut off the gas supply to the heater.  They stayed till their meters showed a zero CO reading.  It was a cold night, but we slept with windows cracked.

Saturday morning our new plumber came to take a look.  The hot water heater had been improperly installed.  It was in the house when we bought it, 6 years ago, so we’re fortunate that we hadn’t had a problem earlier.  Parts will be picked up, and we should be back up and running with hot water on Monday.

I am so thankful that we called the Fire department on Friday night, instead of just disconnecting the beeping detectors, and waiting till the morning.  It’s quite possible that the levels of CO could have killed us in our sleep.  I’ll take the inconvenience of no hot water for the weekend, because it means I’m alive and my family is safe.

My take-home message is if you don’t have CO detectors in your house, get them.  And get more than 1.  Put one on each level of your house, and near any gas powered appliances.  (CO is caused by fuels that don’t burn properly or don’t vent after burning).  Check the batteries regularly, and change the detectors.  I didn’t realize till it was beeping at us that they have a life of 5-7 years, and we’ve had ours for 6 years now.  And if your detectors start beeping like ours did, open windows and call your local fire department.  Don’t just disconnect the detector and leave it for the morning, since the morning might not come.

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