Check your detectors

Using smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in your home

A home is more than just walls, pipes and ducts — and even more than all the prized possessions you put inside it. It’s the people you love.

That’s why it’s important to go the extra mile when it comes to home safety. Home safety is about more than smoke detectors. Carbon monoxide detectors and radon detectors can help protect people’s lives.

Read on to learn more about how what carbon monoxide and radon are and how these different detectors could save a life.

Carbon monoxide Radon Smoke

Carbon monoxide (CO)

You can’t see carbon monoxide (CO). You can’t smell CO. You can’t taste CO. But CO can kill you.

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas. It’s a byproduct of most fuels used by engines, appliances, furnaces, and other common equipment found in garages, homes, businesses, and farms.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning, not linked to fires, each year. Another 20,000 visit the emergency room for CO exposure.

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms

CO poisoning may look and feel like the flu. Common signs include headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion.

CO poisoning can happen in any closed space, including vehicles, garages, outbuildings, and homes.

Using a carbon monoxide detector

The CDC recommends installing a CO detector in your hope to help prevent CO exposure or poisoning. The detector should be battery operated or have a battery backup. Check it twice a year — add it to the to-do list when you change your clocks for daylight saving time.

Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning

  • Replace old detectors. If your CO detector is older than five years, replace it with a new one.
  • Service fuel-burning appliances annually. If you have an appliance that burns fuel (e.g., gas, oil, coal, wood) have it serviced by a quality technician every year. During servicing, make sure appliances are also properly vented. Never patch a vent pipe. The CDC recommends having your chimney inspected and cleaned once a year, too.
  • Inspect your vehicle. Even a small exhaust leak can lead to CO build up inside of the vehicle. Have a mechanic give your vehicle’s exhaust system a once-over every year.
  • Keep it outside. Never run your car or truck inside a garage that is attached to a house, even if the garage door is open. If you have a detached garage, make sure the door is open when you’re running your vehicle.
  • Use outdoor fuels outdoors. Use charcoal, portable gas camp stoves, and generators outdoors. When using the generator, keep and at least 20 feet from any window, door, or vent.

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What is radon?

Radon is an odorless, invisible, radioactive gas that often goes undetected in a home. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer and leads the pack among non-smokers. It’s single-handedly responsible for more than 21,000 deaths every year, including 2,900 deaths among people who have never smoked.

The American Cancer Society says that although there are no widely available medical tests to measure whether you’ve been exposed to radon, and radon exposure is symptomless, you should still be aware of the risks of radon poisoning. If you smoke and have been exposed to high levels of radon, your risk for lung cancer rises exponentially.

Radon testing

Knowledge is power. The EPA recommends checking radon levels as a first step to understanding the risk of radon exposure in your home. Using a do-it-yourself kit available at most hardware or home supply stores you can check radon levels in your home.

There are short-term and long-term kits; the long-term kit is the most accurate. The EPA recommends testing even “radon-resistant” homes below the third floor over a three-month period.

Radon mitigation

Hire a qualified radon mitigation contractor to fix your home’s radon issue. The EPA says the primary method to reduce radon in a home is a soil suction radon reduction system, which uses vent piping and a fan.

Depending on your home’s radon levels, foundation, and your budget, you and your contractor can select an appropriate radon reduction solution.

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Smoke detectors

National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) data show that 3,800 people died in home fires in 2021 (the most recent data available). An average of 14,700 were injured in the same period.

Most of us have had a kitchen flub that set off the piercing wail of a smoke detector. Sure, it’s loud and annoying but it could help save a life. Overnight hours —11 p.m.–7 a.m. — account for 20 percent of home fires but 50 percent of home fire deaths. And nearly three out of five home fire deaths resulted from fires at properties with either no smoke alarms or non-working smoke alarms.

Smoke detector installation locations

The NFPA recommends that smoke detectors be installed:

  • On the ceiling or high on a wall.
  • Inside each bedroom.
  • Outside each sleeping area.
  • On every level of the home, including the basement.
  • At least 10 feet from cooking appliances.

The NFPA also advises interconnecting your smoke alarms so that if one sounds, they all sound.

A chirping smoke alarm

A chirping smoke detector can be incredibly irritating and the chirps can be due to a variety of reasons. Maybe the battery is low. Maybe the detector is failing.

Keep the manufacturer’s instructions on hand for reference so that when your smoke alarm starts chirping or blinking, you’re not tempted to disengage it. Instead, you can diagnose the chirp and fix (or replace) the device.

Test your alarms once a month by pressing the test button. The NFPA recommends smoke alarms with non-replaceable, 10-year batteries. If your smoke alarms have another type of battery, you should replace the battery at least once a year.

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For more information

Your home is protected with CO, radon, and smoke detectors. Now protect it — and everything inside — with Home-Guard® insurance.

Learn about our home coverages Contact an agent today!