Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Something in the Air

The other day, as I was coming back from work, I looked out the bus window and spotted this, pulled up right in front of our house:

And an ambulance. And the fire chief's SUV.

Before I go any further, let me stop right here and tell you that everyone is totally safe, and no houses were burned down in the production of this blog post. But let me tell you, seeing fire trucks and an ambulance right in front of your house is scary as shit. It turns out, my neighbor had a carbon monoxide leak.

Make sure the detectors you have in your home do both smoke and carbon monoxide. If you take it off the wall and look at the back of the unit, it will say if it does both! It turns out we didn't have carbon monoxide detectors in our home, we only had smoke detectors. I guess it just never occurred to us to check if they also monitored CO. Frankly, as apartment dwellers who have never had any combustion heating or appliances, it just never even crossed our minds. But it's no joke, y'all. Carbon monoxide is an exhaust product; any combustion (from a stove, fireplace, whatever) that's incomplete can cause it. It's also completely odorless, so you won't smell it.

Anyway, this is pretty much what Amazon one day shipping was invented for, so we bought a six pack of these bad boys ASAP:
One of the things I really like about these Kidde detectors is they have a "hush" feature for nuisance alarms. So if you burn something on the stove and the alarm goes off, you can punch one button and tell the alarm to hush for ten minutes. After ten minutes has gone by, it re-tests the air, and if all is well, it goes back to being its quiet, unobtrusive self.

This feature is SO IMPORTANT because we have a family member who has been known to unplug smoke detectors when she cooks and never plugs them back in again. I won't name names, but let's just say her name rhymes with "Dom."

Even if you have carbon monoxide detectors, it's important to know they need to be replaced every 8-10 years. The sensor component is a chemical fuel cell (a device that chemically combines oxygen and a fuel to produce electricity) that runs on carbon monoxide. When it's present, the cell consumes it, producing an electrical current in the process. The rest of the detector measures that current to figure out the concentration of the carbon monoxide, and set off the alarm if necessary. The point is, it's not just a matter of replacing batteries; after a certain number of years, the chemicals in the fuel cell dry out, or otherwise just lose their potency. New detectors come printed with the manufacturing date so consumers know when they expire, like ours below.

Kidde Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detector
Sorry for the potato-gram quality picture, but you can see our detector should be replaced around the summer of 2023.

I find that it's hard to set a reminder for things so far off in the future, so I just pop it into Google Calendar while I've got the detector in front of me and I don't have to yank it off the wall. Your phone's reminder system works fine, too.


  1. I would assume that it's the same in your area as it is for mine but for new construction a smoke detector is required in every room and at least one carbon monoxide detector for the entire house. Never had one before our current house but you're definitely right, it's a good thing to have.

    1. You're right, it's the same in Maryland, too! The whole thing just gave me the heebie jeebies -- CO poisoning is scary stuff. I might have overdone it with the number of detectors, haha.

  2. Great information. Also, check the plumbing in your new home. Some residents have had plumbing issues already.

  3. Hi, I just discovered your blog. We were just discussing this issue the other day and were told that the fire departments in the state of Maryland would give this detectors away. I called some time ago and they said they stopped doing it; however, I went to church last weekend at the fire fighter chief spoke about the importance and that we could call to get detectors. If they are still offering them, I plan to pick some up or buy the this six pack with the carbon monoxide from Amazon. Thanks for this excellent post. I know Lowes or Home Depot have a combo kit that is approximately thirty bucks. I have not research enough but I am like you. I want them every where. :-) I will continue to follow your journey. Please feel free and join our site at for our new build and we have another blog for another home we built back in 2013 that we sold that has some great tips Nice meeting you. Love your blog.

    1. Aw, thank you!! Just joined up. I really like the Toll Brother models, but they were out of our budget in our area. They have beautiful homes! Looking forward to following your journey. :)

    2. Geesh! I just re-read my reply to your post and the typos are making my eyes blurry. Iol I hope you got the message. lol We live just down the street from your new home at Greenbelt Station. I drive by nearly everyday. The Toll Brothers choice was totally unexpected and unplanned. We were originally going to buy the Remington II from NV Homes. What community did you visit the Toll Brothers model? I am noticing that they are building in several areas in Maryland.