How many carbon monoxide alarms do I need to prevent CO poisoning?

Published August 03, 2017

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If you recently received a recommendation from the Massachusetts Property Insurance Underwriting Association about how to avoid losses and claims, you're aware that the MPIUA urges the installation of working carbon monoxide (CO) alarms. Good advice, to be sure, but advice that has raised a number of questions.

Why are CO alarms necessary? How many do I need? Where should they be installed?

For starters, Massachusetts law requires CO alarms, also referred to as CO detectors, "for buildings with fossil-fuel burning equipment or enclosed parking areas." A web search by ever-alert Sylvia Group Account Manager Paula Gomes turned up an informative flier from the state government website, and a check of the flier with the MPIUA produced a strong endorsement.

So here's the flier, which addresses topics including:

  • symptoms of CO poisoning
  • what to do if you suspect CO exposure
  • where to install alarms and how to maintain them
  • what kind of alarms to purchase
  • sources of CO
  • when to replace alarms
  • how to limit CO in the home.

Among the tips associated with that last topic is this: "Check vent pipes, flues and chimneys for leaks or blockages." As another ace Sylvia Group Account Manager, Danielle Andre, can attest, cleaning vent pipes can do more than reduce CO buildup.

When a repair technician serviced a noisy dryer in Danielle's home last month, he found more than the faulty wheel that was causing the ruckus; he discovered that lint that had accumulated in the dryer vent had ignited and burnt out on its own. As Danielle put it, "My house could have burned down."

Before leaving, the technician made Danielle promise to follow three risk-management practices:

  1. Have the dryer vent professionally cleaned at least every five years (more frequently if your dryer is subject to heavy use), and periodically use a vacuum to clean it yourself in the interim.
  2. Never run the dryer while sleeping, especially at night.
  3. Never, NEVER run the machine while no one is home.

In addition to sharing those safety rules, Danielle also provided link to "How Often You Should Clean a Dryer Vent," an article that includes signs your vent may need cleaning immediately. The article also notes the following:

"... when a dryer vent is blocked, carbon monoxide will be forced out inside your home. So in addition to saving you money, regular vent cleaning just may save your life."

Less important, but nevertheless significant, proper installation of carbon monoxide alarms and other home safety practices help avoid costly claims and homeowners insurance premium hikes — hence the loss-avoidence recommendation from the MPIUA.

If you're remodeling or selling a home, be aware that most municipalities require working CO alarms for issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy for a construction project under permit or for the sale of a house. Most people, however, don't need a pending inspection to prod them into making sure CO alarms are installed and in working order. An interest in the safety of family and guests, perhaps coupled with the occasional friendly reminder, is typically enough.  

For more on preventing carbon monoxide poisoning visit the Centers for Disease control website. For more about protecting your family, your home and yourself with personal insurance, speak with an agent at Sylvia Group.


About Sylvia Group

Sylvia Group helps businesses and individuals protect their future by designing insurance, employee benefits and financial planning programs. We’re a third-generation, locally owned agency known for our commitment to our clients and our community, as well for our industry expertise. Founded in New Bedford, MA, in 1950, headquartered in neighboring Dartmouth, and serving businesses and individuals throughout Massachusetts, Rhode Island and beyond, Sylvia Group is certified as a Woman Owned Business Enterprise with the Massachusetts Supplier Diversity Office and has the distinction of being the first six-time recipient of the Five Star designation awarded by the Massachusetts Association of Insurance Agents (MAIA) for all-around agency excellence.

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