Carbon monoxide detectors are essential safety necessities in your home or work environment. They contain sensors meant to detect increased levels of carbon monoxide in the atmosphere. If the CO levels are above average, the detector will sound an alarm on the potential danger. Sometimes, these alarms can set off upon detecting other gases, a situation called a “false alarm”. So, what gases can set off a carbon monoxide detector?
Fumes from the following gases can also trigger a carbon monoxide detector:
- Hydrogen sulfide
- Nitrogen dioxide
- Hydrogen cyanide
- Ethyl alcohol
- Dimethyl sulfide
- Sulfur dioxide
- Isopropyl alcohol fumes
- Isopropyl alcohol fumes
- Methyl alcohol fumes
Carbon monoxide detectors can detect other gases in the atmosphere because they are also electrochemical detectors.
Therefore, while it is safe to promptly leave the house and dial 911 upon the sound of your CO alarm, consider deactivating all the sources where the named gases might have leaked.
Did you know? Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas known as a “silent killer.” It is fatal and dangerous as it can kill people without warning. That is why homeowners and state regulations advise the installation of carbon monoxide detectors in all homes.
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How to Prevent Other Gases from Setting Off your Carbon Monoxide Detector
The sound of a carbon monoxide detector can cause havoc and panic within a household. It is even more frustrating when you can hardly identify why the alarm is beeping.
Luckily enough, there are ways of minimizing the chances of such incidences. As we mentioned, other elements, including other gases, can trigger your CO alarm.
The following are ways to prevent other gases from setting off your carbon monoxide detector:
Buy the Latest Carbon Monoxide Detector
The world is changing so fast, thanks to the advancement of technologies meant to ease and make life better. Carbon monoxide detectors were not left out!
We recommend buying the latest CO detector as they are programmed with the latest technologies, which are more sophisticated. This especially applies if your smoke detector is about 5-10 years old, as a lot has changed within this period.
The latest detectors sync with the current technological advancements, offering you more protection. Most importantly, they will alert you when there are real emergencies, thus reducing the chances of false alarm triggers.
The advancements in the current detectors will offer you and your loved ones maximum protection while also giving you peace of mind. (You don’t have to worry about a false alarm and wondering why it won’t stop chirping).
Replace the Malfunctioned/ Faulty Carbon Monoxide Detector
As your carbon monoxide ages, it will likely break down and become more faulty. This can be reflected through unexplainable constant chirping and lighting up, even in the absence of an emergency. The aged CO detector can also get triggered by other gases, leading to the chirping.
If your CO detector has such tendencies, it will help if you replace them immediately. Additionally, we recommend the replacement of your CO detector every few years to ensure maximum protection against hazardous gases that would cause fire and other fatal outcomes.
Check and Replace the Batteries of Your Carbon Monoxide Detector Whenever Necessary
A carbon monoxide detector with low batteries will likely malfunction, causing unnecessary chirps and light flashing. Therefore, we recommend keeping a close eye on the level of your battery to prevent your device from malfunctioning.
If your carbon monoxide detector is battery-powered, please ensure you replace the batteries monthly. Also, install it appropriately, based on your manufacturer’s instructions, to prevent false alarms.
Inspect for the Presence of any Loose Wires
It is common for wires to loosen up within a device. This is associated with prolonged use of the detector or if you have been replacing it and moving it to different locations. Such scenarios are unfavorable as they will tamper with the device’s functionality.
In worst cases, it will cause system problems, leading to the device chirping and beeping unnecessarily. Therefore, you’d want to open your carbon monoxide detector and examine if there are any loose wires. If so, reattach the wires, and you might have solved your problem.
Will Sewer Gas Set Off a Carbon Monoxide Detector?
A carbon monoxide detector does not detect sewer gas. This is because the CO detector is designed only to read increased levels of carbon monoxide in the environment. Because of this, carbon monoxide cannot pick up other gases in the sewer gas mixture.
However, some people and research argue that sewage containing more than 500 parts per million of methane may set off an alarm. However, there is a distinct difference between carbon monoxide and methane.
While carbon monoxide is a by-product of incomplete burning fuel, methane is not a by-product. This may explain why the CO detector can only pick up carbon monoxide, not sewer gas.
Besides, sewer gas is primarily made of methane2. However, it also emits other gases such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and hydrogen sulfide.
Such gases may trigger a malfunctioned carbon monoxide detector. However, you will need a sewer gas detector to alert you to the presence of sewer gas because a CO detector will not serve this problem.
However, most people debate if they really need a sewer gas detector. Unlike carbon monoxide gas which is scentless and colorless, the human nose can easily smell sewer gas. So, a lot of people wonder, Is my Nose More Sensitive than a Sewer Gas Detector?
The simple answer is yes! The human nose has a higher sensitivity to sewer gas than any ppm gas leak detector. Scientifically, the human nose can detect sewer gas levels when they are as low as 0.001 ppm. On the other hand, a detector worth $100 bucks will only detect amounts as low as one ppm.
Olfactory Fatigue is the process in the human body that reduces the nose’s sensitivity, thus reducing its reliability as an objective detector.
However, you cannot rely on your human nose to sense the sewer gas. This is because it changes its sensitivity upon smelling a rancid smell like sewer gas in the home.
Simply put, sewer gas is more reliable and effective than the human nose detecting a sewer leak.
What Are the Symptoms of Sewer Gas Poisoning?
Sewer gas is best described as a by-product of the breakdown of natural human waste. The gas contains a mixture of hydrogen sulfide and ammonia, among other gases.
The mention of sewer gas is often associated with the smell of rotten eggs. Wondering why? The hydrogen sulfide in the gas mixture gives it this smell.
Inhaling low levels of sewer gas is unlikely to pose a danger to your health. However, chronic exposure to the gas will manifest through the symptoms of sewer gas poisoning. Described below are some of the symptoms:
- Stomach upset characterized by vomiting and nausea
- Dizziness or light-headedness
- Poor memory and concentration
While Sewer gas exposure and poisoning cases are relatively uncommon, people who work in industrial spaces are more exposed to the gas than others. They will portray symptoms of poisoning, such as:
- Loss of the sense of smell. We mentioned earlier that while the nose is highly sensitive to the smell of sewer gas, it will lose its ability to smell over time. This makes it an unreliable detector.
A person experiencing sewer gas poisoning will no longer be able to smell the smell of a rotten egg.
- One will experience irritation in the throat, mouth, and lungs
- One will also develop pink eye as a result of eye irritation
- One may start experiencing seizures
- One may fall into a coma.
- In extreme cases, sewer gas poisoning will lead to a potential loss of life.
Anything that threatens human life is a cause for concern. Therefore, most people often question how one can get diagnosed as suffering from sewer gas poisoning.
However, the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention assert that no blood test would determine whether one is exposed to sewer poisoning.
However, you can self-diagnose if you notice the smell of sewer gas, if you are showing symptoms of exposure to the gas, and if your home or workplace have been exposed to a sewer gas leak.
It is essential to know what to do if you notice you are experiencing sewer gas poisoning. So, What’s the treatment for Sewer Gas Exposure?
Once you notice a mild exposure to a sewer gas leak, you will need to air out the house promptly, then call a licensed and qualified professional to inspect and fix the source of the leak.
Also, check all the floor drains, toilets, and cents to ascertain that nothing is cracked, clogged, blocked, or loose.
Once you identify the source of the leak, call a plumbing expert while also ensuring that your drains and plumbing air vents are clean. Also, move to a place with fresh air to reduce the poisoning symptoms.
However, if exposed to higher levels of sewer poisoning, you should immediately seek medical attention.
REMINDER: Symptoms of high exposure to sewer gas include Dizziness, nausea, and difficulties in breathing, among others mentioned in the article.
How Dangerous Is Sewer Gas to Your Home?
Sewer gas contains a complex mixture of gases. Some of these gases are deemed highly hazardous
to human life. The primary components of this gas include; ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, methane, and carbon dioxide.
The sewer gas is not so dangerous to human life, especially if exposed in small amounts.
However, its components increase the level of toxicity when exposed to high levels
Hydrogen sulfide, a primary component of sewer gas, is considered toxic to the body’s oxygen
systems. Hydrogen sulfide may cause adverse symptoms, organ damage, and fatalities like death if inhaled in high amounts.
Ammonia, also present in sewer gas, is famous for its ability to clean chemicals such as Windex. It also has a distinctive, unpleasant odor.
Now, ammonia will cause eye, nose, and throat irritation when exposed to humans. It becomes more toxic if exposed at higher levels, as it can cause organ damage and even death.
Methane and carbon dioxide, present in sewer gas, is considered nontoxic greenhouse gases.
However, they are highly volatile (flammable) it exposed in high amounts. Ammonia is equally highly flammable. Therefore, the three gases combined can contribute to a deadly fire hazard if exposed to high levels.
How Do You Check Your House for Sewer Gas?
Sewer gas backing up into your house can be a severe problem, not just because of the distinctive smell but because of the negative health implications it can cause you.
While you always need to call in a plumber in case of a sewer gas leakage, not all gas backups are serious. If you can identify or check your house for leakage, you can quickly solve some.
The following are some of the most common causes of sewer gas leakage in your house:
Otherwise described as P-traps or S-traps, water traps are often found near floor drains and laundry tubs. You can also locate them below the sink in your house. Their function involved trapping water inside the curve and preventing the gas from moving back into the house.
Like any other appliance, it will likely dry up if you don’t use the water trap as often. They can also dry up if there’s a leak somewhere before the trap.
A dry trap would create a breeding ground for the sewer gas to move into the house.
Therefore, if you notice the smell of sewer gas, check the areas below the sink, the laundry tub, and the floor drain to determine the source of the leakage.
If this is the problem, there are two things you can do:
a.) If you notice the sink is producing the sewer gas smell, run the water for a few seconds, and voila! You will have restored your trap.
b.) Pour a pitcher of water down the drain if you suspect the smell is coming from the floor
drain. The water, like in the sink, will restore its normal functioning.
Missing Clean-Out Plugs
Inspect the clean-out plugs for your house traps or any other mainline traps. Clean-out plugs are often used as access points in the main sewer lines, often constructed at the foundation of the walls.
The main lines are snaked out through the clean-out plugs, barring the gases from moving into your house.
The clean-out lines are also designed to ease the removal of clogs. Also, these lines are capped to prevent sewer gas from escaping into your house.
If you notice one of the clean-out lines missing or broken, it could contribute to the sewer gas smell in your house.
The solution to this is replacing the clean-out plug. You can purchase it from any of your favorite local hardware stores.
Bad Wax Ring In The Toilet
You will notice a wax ring between the toilet flange and its base. The wax ring is specially made to
provide an airtight or watertight seal.
The wax ring can sometimes malfunction, causing it to leak or compromise. This will lead to sewer gas penetrating your home.
Therefore, if you notice that your toilet’s wax ring has malfunctioned, consider replacing it to solve the problem.
There are more serious causes of sewer gas leakage in your house. While you can identify the source, hiring a qualified technician to fix the problem is vital, as it is more extensive and expensive.
Described below are some of the complex problems causing sewer gas leakage in your house:
Sewer or Septic Pipe Leaks
It is harder to diagnose sewer or Septic pipe leaks. It is even harder to repair; hence it demands an expert to fix it.
If you notice your toilet gurgling and the drains are slow (often preceded by the rotten egg smell of sewer gas), it could indicate a sewer line leak.
NOTE: The sewer leaks could be because of improperly placed pipes or vents. Also, cracks in the
foundation of your septic pipes would lead to the gas seeping into your house.
Loose Connections in the sewer lines and the vent pipes will allow the penetration of pungent gases
into your home.
This mostly happens inside the ceiling or a wall. Therefore, correcting the damage by yourself can be challenging. It would be best if you hired an expert to do it.
Toilets are crucial integral parts of the sewage system in your house. If they are not tightly fitted into the sewer lines, they can result in the emission of sewer gas.
- Cracked Pipes
Check if your house has a cracked, degraded, or broken pipe to identify if it’s the source of the sewer gas smell in your house.
The sewer systems pipes in your house are meant to protect your home from exposure to the by-products of human waste. If they are cracked, the sewer gas will penetrate your house.
Now that we can identify sewer gas in our homes, is there anything we can do to prevent it? Certainly! They say prevention is better than cure. That’s why it is crucial to learn the preventive measures for sewer gas leakage. Let’s look at them!
- Ensure that There is Water in all the Traps
We’ve mentioned that dry traps significantly contribute to sewer gas leakage into your house. You can prevent this nuisance by first locating all the Traps in your household, from the floor to under the sink
or toilet, or the wall.
Please pay attention to the least used traps and ensure they maintain water levels. This is because the least used traps are more prone to drying than the frequently used ones.
Also, consider pouring several tablespoons of vegetable oil into the water for rarely used traps. This will slow down the evaporation process.
- Regularly Clean Your Drains
Dirt, dust, debris, hair, and toys, among other elements, will likely clog up your drains. This contributes to the emission of sewer gas into your home.
Clean your drains from such elements and particles by removing the stopper and cleaning the debris.
After setting the stopper aside, bend a hook at the end of the wire, and stick it down the drain. Use the hook to pull out the debris and dispose of them in the trash. Repeat this process as often as possible until you feel no debris left.
Pour four to five gallons of hot water into the drain and replace the stop. The water should be hot enough but not boiling. Replace the stopper after you are done.
Note: The drain line can be much longer than the hook. A small hook may not access all the dirt in your drain. Consider hiring a professional to snake the drain if this is the case.
- Ensure the Vent Stack is Free from Debris
The pipe that sticks out of your roof is described as the vent pipe. Ensure that it is free from debris and
You will likely deal with the debris problem if you have trees with branches hanging directly over the vent pipe. If you don’t have the trees hanging over, you won’t have to deal with clearing the stack.
The trees or other features will drop debris into your vent pipe, thus contributing to its clogging. If you have them around your house, consider hiring professionals to do semi-regular cleanings.
Can Mold Set Off a Carbon Monoxide Detector?
Most people take safety measures with smoke and carbon detectors in their homes. However, very few people consider looking out for mold despite the unpleasant effects it may pose.
Naturally, molds like to grow in places full of moisture, such as around leaks in roofs, windows, or pipes.
Moisture can also occur in the event of excessive flooding.
Moisture is considered one of the most notorious causes of false alarms in carbon monoxide detectors.
You can hardly mention mold without involving moisture. Therefore, excess mold can trigger a false alarm from a CO detector due to the excess moisture surrounding its growth. That is why you are always advised to install the CO detectors away from moisture.
The moisture from the mold may cause unnecessary chirping or beeping of your carbon monoxide detector, which can be nerve-wracking. For this reason, you’d want to do everything possible to prevent mold growth in your home. Here is what you can do:
- Maintain low levels of humidity.
Prevent mold growth by ensuring that your home has no higher than 50% daily humidity. An air conditioner or a humidifier will help keep the humidity levels as low as you want.
Besides, you can also purchase a meter to keep the humidity levels in a home in check. Note that the humidity levels will change throughout the day; therefore, consider checking them more than once a day.
- Ensure That Your Home Has a Free Flow of Air
Depending on your area, the weather can be extremely hot, which might limit the free flow of air. An exhaust fan that vents outside your kitchen and bathroom will help in such a situation. Also, ensure that your clothes dryer vents outside your home.
- Fix any Leaks in Your Home
Moisture from water is one of the significant factors for the growth of molds. Minimize the chances of its growth by fixing leaks on your home’s roof, walls, or plumbing.
- Clean up Immediately after Flooding
Ensure that you clean and dry out your home entirely and quickly. Do this between 24-48 hours after a flood. Molds are bound to grow after a flooding crisis since the moisture from the flood water is a conducive environment for its growth.
- Use Mold Inhibitors in Paints
Molds will grow on your painted surface, especially if it did not cure well or if exposed to natural weather elements. You can solve this by adding mold inhibitors to your paint before painting. You can purchase them from paint and home improvement stores.
- Replace Carpets and Upholstery that Take a Long to Dry up
Ensure that you remove or replace soaked carpets and upholstery that were soaked and did not dry right away. Avoid using carpets in areas like the bathroom or basement, as they contain a lot of moisture.
NOTE: There exists a wide range of molds. Some appear like spots. They also come in different colors. They mostly smell musty. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend immediately removing the mold once you spot it growing in your home.
They further recommend cleaning and fixing the moisture problem to inhibit it from growing further in your surroundings. You will need household products such as soap and water or a bleach solution containing less than a cup of laundry bleach in one gallon of water.
Additionally, mold poses different health effects to people, including a stuffy nose, sore throat, coughing and wheezing, burning eyes, or a skin rash.
People affected by asthma or allergic to mold experience severe effects. Also, those with low immunity and those with chronic lung complications may worsen due to infections from mold.
Can Humidity Set Off Carbon Monoxide Detector?
A carbon monoxide detector is designed t go off upon excess carbon monoxide levels. However, the beeping of this detector does not always indicate the presence of CO in the atmosphere.
The presence of moisture, low battery levels, and the device reaching its end are considered some of the causes that trigger a carbon monoxide alarm.
Humidity also contributes to this list. The presence of high levels of humidity in the atmosphere would trigger a carbon monoxide detector.
Humidity often collects moisture on and around the carbon monoxide sensors, leading to a false alarm. The false alarm may seem like a defect.
However, contrary to popular opinion, it is a safety feature. The detector saves you the trouble and the inconvenience of false alarms by alerting you to changes in humidity levels.
Also, high humidity levels will cause corrosion of the sensor leading to a false alarm from the CO detector.
To solve this issue, homeowners are encouraged to keep the humidity levels at a minimum level of between 30-50%. You can do this by using a dehumidifier and opening windows and doors to enhance the proper circulation of air. You also need to know the sources of humidity to prevent false alarms in the future.
CAUTION: Turning off a carbon monoxide detector to prevent the constant chirping and beeping is not the best idea. You must act promptly by opening the windows and doors, leaving the potentially risky area, and calling 911. The CO gas is odorless, colorless, and extremely dangerous when inhaled at high levels. It can cause slight headaches, Dizziness, nausea, and death.
A carbon monoxide detector can be triggered by other elements other than the CO levels in the atmosphere. These elements include dust, insects, moisture, and humidity, among other elements. Even so, let’s look at…
What Other Gases Can Set Off a Carbon Monoxide Detector?
Fumes from gases such as Hydrogen sulfide, Mercaptan, Nitrogen dioxide, Hydrogen cyanide, Ethyl alcohol, Dimethyl sulfide, Acetylene, Isopropyl alcohol fumes, Methyl alcohol fumes, Sulfur dioxide, and propane can trigger carbon monoxide detectors.
Replacing the batteries, buying the latest brand, and fixing loosened wires, will help prevent other gases from setting off your carbon monoxide alarm.
Lastly, sewer gas will not set off a carbon monoxide alarm since the gas in the mixture is quite different from carbon monoxide. CO detectors are specifically designed to detect carbon monoxide in the atmosphere; therefore, sewer gas would not set it off.
You can learn a lot more about a carbon monoxide detector as it is a safety necessity in your home. Let us know what more you would like to know about the detector in the comment section. I hope the article was informative😊