New CO laws lead to more detector demand

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Friday, May 17, 2013

ST. CHARLES, Ill.—A new Washington state law that went into effect Jan. 1 mandates carbon monoxide detectors in new single-family homes and all new and existing apartments and rental houses.

Washington is among an increasing number of states with CO legislation. According to a new interactive CO map developed by System Sensor, which makes fire detection and notification devices, including CO detectors, 40 states had such legislation as of March.

Such requirements have created an uptick in demand nationwide for CO detectors, according to Doug Hoeferle, a security products senior marketing manager for System Sensor, based here.

Overall, he told Security Systems News, the legislation “has really driven the business over the last few years.”

But there may be some lag time before local dealers feel the business impact of CO laws, such as the one the Washington Legislature approved, Hoeferle said.

“Typically when they implement it, it takes awhile for it really to take effect—before dealers understand [the law and its ramifications], before AHJs start truly enforcing it, and in a residential sense they don’t always have an AHJ that’s approving it,” he said.

CO is an odorless, colorless gas that is one of the leading causes of accidental poisoning deaths in this country, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The new Washington law requires CO alarms in most residential buildings, according to the Seattle Fire Department’s website. Current owner-occupied single-family homes are exempt from the requirement. But if a homeowner does interior remodeling that requires a building permit, they’ll have to add a CO detector, the fire department site says. Also, if the house is sold, CO alarms have to be added before a new owner moves in, the site says.

While the fire department notes the alarms can be purchased at hardware and home improvement stores, Hoeferle said that “monitored is the way to go.”

“If there’s a high concentration of CO, a lot of times it starves the brain for oxygen and you’re relying on a homeowner or someone to make that decision and lot of times their decision is to unplug [the alarm],” he said. “They really do misdiagnose those symptoms as the flu because its odorless and it’s tasteless. You know when there’s smoke in a building, but you don’t necessarily know when there’s CO in a building.”

Hoeferle continued, “We’ve heard of cases of the central station calling the home and the homeowner going, ‘I’m fine, this thing is false alarming,’ and the central station saying, ‘No sir, they don’t false alarm. You need to leave the home.’ And the next call is to the fire department and the fire department comes and measures and says, ‘Yeah, you would have been dead in 20 minutes.’”

At ISC West this year, System Sensor launched its new i4 Series combination CO/smoke detector and integration module.

The i4 Series, which can be integrated into conventional security and fire panels, “is the first low-voltage, system-connected, combination smoke and carbon-monoxide detection solution on the market,” according to a company news release. Hoeferle said the device is good for apartment buildings of up to 12 units and also for single-family homes.