Time to replace old carbon monoxide detectors

By WEEK Producer

November 28, 2012 Updated Nov 28, 2012 at 8:06 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- Pearlene Bell is testing out a new carbon monoxide detector. She had two of them installed in her home Wednesday, five years after it became state law requiring them.

"It's really important because carbon monoxide is nothing to play with," said Bell.

She's right. Carbon Monoxide is a gas that is colorless and odorless. You don't know its there. That's where a carbon monoxide detector comes in.

"In 2010, approximately 80,000 calls were made by fire departments throughout The United States," said Terry Ford, director of public education for the State Fire Marshal. "It also sent about 20,000 people to emergency rooms and resulted in about 240 deaths."

Carbon monoxide poisoning depletes the body's oxygen supply and often results in flu-like symptoms. And CO levels can be higher in a home during the winter.

"Because houses are sealed up to keep the cold air out," explained Division Chief Ed Olehy of the Peoria Fire Department. "People put plastic on their windows, we open the doors and shut them as quickly as possible, we cover the cracks on the bottom of the doors. All of those types of things really seal the house up tight and keep the cold air out. But what that does is it doesn't allow fresh air in the house and fresh air is a way to move carbon monoxide out of your house."

For Peoria residents who still don't have a carbon monoxide detector and can't afford one, the Peoria Fire Department will install one free. All you have to do is call them.

An inexpensive carbon monoxide detector costs around $20, plus whatever you have to pay for batteries.

Olehy says after about 5 years, they can break down. Newer units even indicate when they stop working correctly.

"The new ones will chirp with a different sound that lets you know that the unit itself is going bad," said Olehy.

Fire officials also recommend having at least one carbon monoxide detector on each floor of any home with an attached garage or fossil fuel burning furnace.