Friday, May 28, 2010

Carbon Monoxide and Camping

Boondock Product:  Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Like most people, I never gave carbon monoxide poisoning much thought until we bought a stick built house.  The house had a CO detector; and every couple of months it would go off.  It was usually while we were fixing breakfast with friends also staying at the house. 

I did not think much about the detector going off until a friend mentioned that he had a CO problem.  He had the same issue with CO detectors going off, but was not concerned.  Then he bought a digital readout CO detector and plugged it in.  As soon as his generator started the CO levels slowly started elevating.  He hardly ever ran his generator, so until he got the digital readout he never suspected the generator was increasing the carbon monoxide level in the house.

Because of his experience, I bought a digital readout CO detector.  The house had an on-demand water heater that exhausted outside, as well as an outside generator and propane heat.  I noticed as soon as the on-demand water heater went on, the CO level went up.  After the on-demand heater quit working the exhaust would be sucked back into the house by the wood stove which needed the oxygen for combustion.  Somebody taking a long shower would raise the CO level enough the alarm would sound.  I thought it was cooking on the gas stove that set off the alarm, instead it was the hot water heater.  We replaced it promptly.
I shudder to think what could have happened to my family and friends or the family of five who lived there for three years previously.  We all had no clue of the potential hazard.

Carbon Monoxide is much more dangerous in a confined space like an RV.  Almost all RV's come with an alarm, but a digital readout CO detector will tell you what is going on and make it is easy to identify the appliance which is unsafe.

So what one should I buy?  Well, I own all three of the following.  You can say I have all the bases covered.  This one has a 120 plug-in, plus a back up battery.  The back-up batteries do not last long in battery mode.  These must be kept plugged in to work.

I like the quick response to CO detection; and the big fat ZERO showing in the display when all is working well.  Again, use only when hooked up to 120 power.  But it is great for troubleshooting, if your CO alarm goes sounds intermittently.

This unit is battery powered only and has a digital readout.  I use these when we are off-grid.  I have not used it for trouble shooting, since I prefer the Kidde plug-in model for that instance.  This unit would be a great back-up to your existing CO detector in your RV.  I keep TWO CO detectors in my living spaces, in case one fails.

I cannot stress how important it is to see the CO readout.  It will quickly tell you which appliance is unsafe.

There are lots of highly rated CO detectors out there.  I bought these units when CO detectors were rare and hard to find.  Nowadays, there are many more options from companies other than Kidde.  I am not sure which are the best of the new units, but it is important to GET A UNIT!

This unit from First Alert is also highly rated.  It is plug-in with a battery backup, but the battery back-up is just that, back-up.  You cannot use it with the battery.  The Kidde is the only one I found that worked on battery power with a CO readout.

I also bought a CO detector with explosive gas detector.  The explosive gas detector is VERY sensitive.  If you had beans for dinner it will detect it.  I plug it in if I smell something.  A women's sense of smell is much better than a man's.  In most cases, your wife will notice that a pilot light is out before you do.  At least, these detectors will confirm that.

I suppose I could train Bugaboo, our German Longhair Pointer, to sniff out explosive gases, but he does not have digital readout mode.


Kevin Moore said...

Hi, Just started monitoring you site from the U.K as we will be RVing USA 2011. Great site with lots of good info. Thanks, keep it up.
Kind regards

Vladimir Steblina said...

Thanks Kevin, I bicycled through England back in 1976. I really enjoyed the countryside.

I hope you have as fine a trip in the United States. The real America is on those two lane roads. Be sure to bring an British flag with you on your RV.

Dugg said...

I have a propane catalytic heater which is supposed to be safe CO-wise, but I'd still like some detector technology keeping an eye on it.

I got the round Kidde battery-only model you mentioned at Walmart a few years back, but its LCD display started showing gibberish not long after. Does yours still work?

I'm never plugged into shore power---solar provides all my needs---and although I have an inverter, I turn it off at night. Debating whether to get the LED model you mention, or try another battery-only one.

Vladimir Steblina said...

I have two of the battery powered Kidde models and both are still working after three years.

I do like the 120 volt models since their readout is much quicker. So every once in awhile I plug it in and keep an eye on it as I cook, heat and do the normal things.

They are really handy for troubleshooting. If an appliance has a CO problem you will know it within seconds. The bright red display lets you read it from anywhere in the RV.

Plug it in when you run your generator. It won't take long to show a problem if you have it.

We always sleep with a window open even in the dead of winter. So that gives me peace of mind, however, guests do not always agree having a window open at night!

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