Role of Carbon Monoxide Detectors in Home Gas Leaks

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When it comes to heating and cooling your home, most people choose electricity or natural gas. On average, natural gas is cheaper than electricity, heats more quickly, and is considered more eco-friendly, so many people tend to favor that option. However, natural gas comes with its own hazards. If your gas-heated appliances are not installed or maintained properly, or even fail, a leak can occur, which could prove fatal in the long term if undetected.

While exposure to low levels of natural gas isn’t harmful in general, gas leaks can lead to fires or explosions if left untreated. Signs of a gas leak are similar to symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning because a gas leak can actually lead to carbon monoxide production. As the gas level increases, the level of oxygen decreases, leading to the creation of carbon monoxide. While carbon monoxide can be produced from the burning of natural gas and may become hazardous if not ventilated properly, a carbon monoxide detector alone can’t detect a gas leak.

Read below to learn the difference between a carbon monoxide and natural gas leak, and how to prevent them in your home.

What is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is a special type of gas that is a by-product of incomplete combustion. Carbon monoxide will commonly enter a home  through a faulty furnace, clothes dryer, or gas or wood-powered fireplace. This gas is dangerous because it is odorless and flammable. It can be a threat in two ways:

  • It can combust. Carbon monoxide can enter a home and start a fire.

  • It can suffocate you. Carbon monoxide enters your lungs and binds to the areas meant to take in oxygen. You may not even sense that you’re suffocating. Because it’s hard to detect, people can die in their sleep due to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide isn’t always noticed even by those who are awake and alert. Those who are poisoned by it may feel dizzy, drowsy, unable to focus, or forgetful. They may attempt to take a nap rather than look for a gas leak, but that decision could lead to deadly consequences.

It’s important to know how to check for a CO leak. It’s recommended that everyone has at least one carbon monoxide detector in their home, though you may need more depending on your home’s design. While having this equipment in place is an often unseen benefit, be sure you know how to care for it to ensure it works properly and keeps you protected.

What is Natural Gas?

Natural gas is different from CO because it isn’t a by-product. Instead, natural gas can simply leak into a home because a gas stove is malfunctioning or a natural gas line is leaking. Natural gas is a fuel and more flammable than carbon monoxide. Compared to suffocation, the danger of natural gas is primarily fire and explosion.

However, natural gas can suffocate you just like carbon monoxide. Natural gas is less dangerous because, while odorless, it’s required by law that an additive be included to give it a noxious smell, reminiscent of rotten eggs. People are usually aware that they have a natural gas leak because they’ll smell the gas in their home, and they can often hear a whistle noise or low hiss of the gas being released. This often spurs homeowners to action far faster than if they had a carbon monoxide leak, as they can identify the problem much quicker by sound and smell.

Does a Carbon Monoxide Detector Detect Natural Gas?

In general, most carbon monoxide detectors  will not detect natural gas, as they are different types of gas entirely. Also, most smoke detectors will detect carbon monoxide rather than natural gas. Again, this is because carbon monoxide is considered to be the greater threat. Though natural gas is more volatile because of its flammable nature, it’s also more easily noticed without a detector.

If you want additional safety and security, there are gas detectors that you can purchase that will detect a variety of gas leaks. These detectors are a wise choice for homeowners who have a number of natural gas appliances within their home, or those who have older gas-powered appliances that they believe could eventually become faulty if not maintained properly.

Gas leaks are incredibly hazardous—not only because of their fire risk, but because the carbon monoxide they exude can slowly kill people without warning.

What Are the Best Natural Gas Leak Detectors?

If you have a carbon monoxide detector and want extra security with a natural gas leak detector, you have plenty of options to choose from. When building your home’s security system, it’s important to consider what life safety devices you want to include to protect you and your loved ones from unusual hazards.

Battery-Powered Natural Gas Leak Detectors

Battery-powered natural gas leak detectors are a good option because they’re easy to use. They have indicator lights that make it simple to spot if and where a natural gas leak is happening in your home.

Spray Natural Gas Leak Detectors

Spray detectors are another option if you’re looking for something more affordable. All you need to do is spray the solution onto the pipes you’re monitoring. Wait at least five seconds for the solution to bubble. If it doesn’t bubble, then there isn’t a natural gas leak. If bubbles are present, then you have a gas leak and should take appropriate action.

Plug-In Natural Gas Leak Detectors

Plug-in natural gas leak detectors do all of the heavy lifting for you. Just plug the detector into a wall and wait to receive updates on the gas levels in your home. If you’re worried about potential power outages, see if you can find a plug-in natural gas detector with backup batteries.

If you’re interested in installing life safety detectors and home security throughout your home, contact Brinks Home™ and our Security Consultants can help you determine the best options to fit your needs.

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