The noise of a carbon monoxide (CO) detector can be quite alarming, to say the least. But what if it goes off and there is no carbon monoxide in the air? There are several reasons why a carbon monoxide detector can go off causing a false alarm. But can humidity set off a carbon monoxide detector?
Humidity can set off a carbon monoxide detector by collecting moisture on and around the sensors and leading to a false alarm. High humidity levels can also cause corrosion on the sensor, which can also lead to a false alarm. Maintaining a humidity level in a home of between 30 to 50% is ideal.
There’s nothing quite like the sound of a carbon monoxide detector going off in the middle of the night. It’s a high-pitched, piercing alarm that seems designed to jolt you out of deep sleep.
Of course, the alarm is there for a good reason. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that can be lethal if it builds up to high levels.
But sometimes, the alarm goes off for no reason at all. Maybe you burned toast for breakfast or somebody took a shower.
Whatever the cause, false alarms are annoying and often result in people disabling their detectors altogether. That’s never a good idea, though, since carbon monoxide is a real threat.
The trick is to learn what causes false alarms in carbon monoxide detectors and how to prevent them.
Can Humidity Set Off Carbon Monoxide Detector?
Most carbon monoxide detectors on the market today use bi-metal sensors that are sensitive to changes in temperature. As the sensor warms, the metals expand at different rates and set off an alarm. However, these carbon monoxide detectors can also be set off by changes in humidity.
When the air is more humid, water vapor condenses on the sensor, causing it to expand and trigger the alarm.
While this may seem like a defect, it’s actually a safety feature. By alerting you to changes in humidity, the detector can help you avoid false alarms.
If your detector goes off and you can’t determine the cause, open a window or door to clear the air and reset the detector.
It’s also important to know where the sources of humidity are coming from in order to help prevent these false alarms in the future.
If it continues to sound, evacuate the premises and call 911.
What Is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide is a gas that is produced when carbon-based fuels are burned. It is a colorless, odorless gas that can be very dangerous if inhaled in large quantities. That’s why carbon monoxide detectors are so important; they can warn you when there are high levels of gas present in your home.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause a variety of symptoms, including a slight headache, dizziness, nausea, and even death.
In most cases, it is best to err on the side of caution and evacuate the premises immediately if your carbon monoxide detector goes off.
How a Carbon Monoxide Detector Works
A carbon monoxide detector works by constantly monitoring the air for the presence of CO gas. When levels start to rise, the detector sounds an alarm, warning people to evacuate the area.
In some cases, the detectors are also connected to a home’s security system, so that emergency services can be alerted if needed.
By installing a carbon monoxide detector, people can help to protect themselves and their families from this invisible danger.
Carbon Monoxide False Alarm Causes
A common cause of a carbon monoxide false alarm is the incorrect installation of the carbon monoxide detector. This can happen if the unit is not plugged in correctly, or if the batteries are not installed properly.
If you experience a carbon monoxide false alarm, it is important to try and determine the cause before resetting the unit.
Otherwise, you could inadvertently disable the detector and put yourself at risk for exposure to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.
High Levels of Humidity
High levels of humidity can cause condensation on the sensor in a carbon monoxide detector, leading to a false alarm. The condensation can short-circuit the sensor, causing it to give a false reading. High humidity levels can also cause corrosion on the sensor, which can also lead to a false alarm.
To avoid this problem, it is important to keep the humidity levels in your home at a minimum. You can do this by using a dehumidifier or by opening windows and doors to let air circulate.
Regularly check your carbon monoxide detector to make sure it is working properly.
Dust can cause a false alarm in a carbon monoxide detector for a few reasons. When dust accumulates on the sensor, it can block the gas from reaching it, causing the sensor to think there is a higher concentration of gas than there actually is.
Dust can absorb moisture from the air, which can cause condensation to form on the sensor and lead to false readings.
To prevent false alarms, it is important to regularly clean the carbon monoxide detector and keep the surrounding area free of dust.
The Carbon Monoxide Detector Expired
Carbon monoxide detectors are an important part of home safety, but like all devices, they have a limited lifespan. Once a detector expires, it can no longer be relied upon to accurately measure carbon monoxide levels. In addition, expired detectors may start to experience false alarms.
While a false alarm from a working detector may simply be annoying, a false alarm from an expired detector can cause undue panic and confusion.
If you have an expired carbon monoxide detector in your home, it is important to replace it as soon as possible.
By doing so, you can help to ensure that your family is safe from the dangers of carbon monoxide exposure.
Steam from a Kitchen or Bathroom
Steam from a kitchen or bathroom can cause a false alarm in a carbon monoxide detector. The steam can trigger the sensor in the carbon monoxide detector, causing it to sound an alarm. To prevent this from happening, keep the detector at least 10 feet away from any source of steam.
You should also never place the detector near a door or window, as drafts can also cause the alarm to sound.
If you have a carbon monoxide detector in your home, make sure to test it regularly and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper placement and maintenance.
Hydrogen gas can cause a false alarm in a carbon monoxide detector. When hydrogen combines with oxygen in the air, it forms water vapor, which is invisible and odorless. However, this reaction also produces heat, which can trigger the alarms in a carbon monoxide detector.
In addition, the high currents associated with charging a caravan or boat battery can also cause the alarm to sound.
To prevent this from happening, it is important to keep the area well-ventilated when charging the battery.
It’s also important to install the carbon monoxide detector in a location where it will not be affected by the heat generated by the charger.
If you have any concerns, you should consult an experienced electrician.
Sometimes, screeded floors can cause a false alarm in a carbon monoxide detector. Screeding is the process of applying a thin layer of concrete to level out a floor. The problem is that when the concrete dries, it gives off carbon monoxide gas.
If the alarm continues to sound, call your local fire department or gas company to investigate.
Home Close to Busy Roads
If a home is too close to busy roads, the detector may mistake the exhaust from the cars for carbon monoxide and sound the alarm even when there is no danger.
To avoid this problem, it is important to place the carbon monoxide detector away from windows and doors that may let in exhaust fumes from passing cars.
By doing so, you can ensure that the detector will only sound an alarm when there is actually a dangerous level of carbon monoxide present.
Insects can cause a false alarm in a carbon monoxide detector by crawling into the sensing chamber and dying. As the Carbon monoxide detector is designed to detect the presence of carbon monoxide, it will sound an alarm when it senses insects in the chamber.
To prevent this from happening, it is important to keep your carbon monoxide detector clean and free of insects.
You can do this by regularly vacuuming the sensor chamber and using an insecticide spray around the perimeter of the detector.
If you live in an area where insects are a problem, you may also want to consider using a screen over the opening of the sensor chamber to keep them out.
The Battery Needs to be Changed
A dying battery in a carbon monoxide detector can cause a false alarm. The best way to avoid this problem is to replace the batteries in a carbon monoxide detector every 6 months.
By doing this, you can help to ensure that your family is safe from this potentially deadly gas.
Signs and Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
There are several signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning that one should be aware of. If you notice any of the following symptoms and suspect carbon monoxide in your home, it’s important to address it immediately.
- Persistent Headaches
- Stomach Pains
- Shortness of breath
- Sudden Collapse
Extreme exposure can cause seizures, loss of consciousness, and death. If you breathe in a lot of CO, it replaces the oxygen in your blood and causes body tissue to die.
CO is found in fumes produced any time you burn fuel such as:
- In cars or trucks
- Small engines
- Gas appliances
- Other fuel-burning appliances
People with heart disease are more susceptible because their hearts are already getting less oxygen. People with anemia have a similar reaction.
Pregnant women and their fetuses are also more vulnerable because CO exposure reduces the oxygen supply to the fetus.
Smokers may be less able to recognize early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning caused by exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide over long periods of time.
Regardless of the source of carbon monoxide, it can be dangerous to humans and pets.
Where Not to Put a Carbon Monoxide Detector
It is important to make sure that your detector is properly placed. The best place for a carbon monoxide detector is near the ceiling in the middle of the room. This placement ensures that the detector will be able to evenly detect carbon monoxide levels throughout the room.
- Near gas-cooking kitchen appliances
- In Direct sunlight
- Near heat vents, supply grills, and registers
- Near or in furnace and water heater closets
- Near fans
- Near windows & exterior doors
- Behind curtains and drapes
- Dead air spaces i.e. wall & ceiling corners
- High levels of humidity
- Unfinished basements
By making sure that carbon monoxide alarms are placed properly, you’re more apt to avoid the often unnecessary false alarms.
Carbon monoxide detectors can be set off by high humidity levels or steam. The key takeaway here is ensuring the proper placement of carbon monoxide detectors.
If you are concerned that your detector is being set off by something other than humidity, it is always best to err on the side of caution and contact a professional.
About the Author:
Trina Greenfield, the owner of SmackDown Media LLC, is passionate about providing information to those interested in the air quality in and around their homes. Trina writes content about things she’s passionate about, such as safe, in-home air, educational platforms for children and adults, as well as all things family-related.