As a home inspector we always check for various safety items. One of those items is carbon monoxide detectors in homes that have natural or LP gas or kerosene as a fuel source. About half of the homes that I inspect do not have carbon monoxide detectors or only have them on one floor. I’m often surprised at the number of people who did not know why they needed them, or where they should be located.
But as a ‘Missouri’ home inspector I have to be ‘extra’ cautious. Why? Missouri, unlike many other states, does not have a ‘law’ or a code requiring carbon monoxide detectors in residential homes. It is up to each city to decide if that city adheres to the current building and fire codes for new construction. Thankfully most Missouri cities do that. But there are no requirements for older homes or homes outside the city limits. Missouri public schools are not required to have carbon monoxide detectors nor are they required in rental properties. Surprising, isn’t it?
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and toxic gas. Because you cannot see it, taste it or smell it can kill you before you have time to get outside or open the windows. At low levels the gas causes nausea and headaches. Sometimes people think they have the flu.
Young children are especially vulnerable. According to safekids.org, each year about 184 children die due to carbon monoxide poisoning and 20,000 children visit the emergency room. The dangers of carbon monoxide increases in the winter because gas fueled devices are used more frequently.
Carbon monoxide gas can come from wood-burning fireplaces that have been converted to a gas log. When this is converted, a safety clip or clamp must be installed on the damper so it can’t be closed fully. At today’s inspection I had this scenario. It was a converted fireplace with no clip. With the damper closed tight, the pilot is lit and the CO can’t escape up the damper.
A rule of thumb is for every fireplace whether gas or wood and every kerosene, or oil heater be inspected on a yearly basis by a professional. They can inspect for leaks by using a gas tester and check visually for cracks and other problems. Carbon monoxide detectors should be on every floor and outside all sleeping areas. The exact height of installation should be according to that manufactures suggestion. Bottom line – buy a carbon monoxide detector!!
*Some of this information was researched from safekids.org and the US Environmental Protection Agency, Warrenton Fire Department and the NACHI site.
Nick Minderman of 7 Oaks Home Inspection is a certified home inspector with both ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors) and NACHI (National Association of Certified Home Inspectors). He can be reached at 636 293-0763 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.