Although carbon monoxide poisoning is avoidable, it still kills hundreds of Americans annually. Each year, the CDC reports at least 430 people in the United States die from exposure to CO gas. And another roughly 50,000 visit the emergency department because of exposure.

As heating season begins, the risk of carbon monoxide increases. So, we put together a Google Survey in September 2022 to learn more about how Minnesota residents protect themselves from carbon monoxide. We surveyed 100 Minnesotans, ages 18-65+.

What Our Survey Found

Even though the Minnesotans we surveyed realize that carbon monoxide is a deadly gas, many didn’t have enough carbon monoxide detectors in their home or test them frequently enough.

27% Only Have One Carbon Monoxide Detector

Of those surveyed, 66% said they own their home with 53% operating a gas furnace as their heater. 22% of respondents use another kind of heating system.

So while not everyone we surveyed has a gas furnace, most people did and understood what carbon monoxide is. They defined it as a “poison gas,” “deadly gas” or “bad gas.”

A furnace’s combustion process is what creates carbon monoxide. When a furnace is working properly, the gas is trapped within the heat exchanger and safely vented up and out of your home through the flue pipes. When the heat exchanger is damaged or flue pipes are blocked, the gas can spill back into your home.

You just might think that this issue won’t happen to you. But 7% of the Minnesotans we surveyed said they’ve had a carbon monoxide problem in their home, with another 7% not sure of whether or not their home was impacted by CO gas.

One of the worst aspects of this gas is the fact there’s no obvious carbon monoxide smell. And because it’s also invisible, one of the only ways to recognize it’s there is with a detector.

Of the Minnesotans we surveyed, 87% stated they have a carbon monoxide detector in their home. But more than one-third of them should install more.

Here’s what our survey found:

  • One detector—27%
  • Two detectors—32%
  • Three detectors—12%
  • Four or more detectors—15%

At Ditter Cooling, Heating & Electrical, we suggest installing at least one detector on each floor. You should have one near the bedrooms, as well as in the basement. When you’re deciding carbon monoxide detector placement, the EPA states you should be installing them at least 5 feet above the floor or on the ceiling.

You might be wondering, is carbon monoxide heavier than air? A common assumption is that carbon monoxide sticks close to the ground, but in actuality it’s slightly lighter than air. This is partly because, as reported by the EPA, it often gets mixed with warm, rising air.

If carbon monoxide accumulates in your home, you may suffer from flu-like symptoms, such as headaches, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. Extended exposure to heavy concentrations can be fatal. That’s why it’s so important to have a carbon monoxide detector somewhere in your home in case you mix up signs of carbon monoxide poisoning for another illness.

Plug-In and Battery-Powered Detectors Are Most Widely Used

There are numerous different kinds of carbon monoxide detectors to pick from. We allowed multiple answers for this question, but of the Minnesotans we surveyed:

  • 23% use a plug-in carbon monoxide detector
  • 21% have a battery-powered carbon monoxide detector
  • 23% own a combined smoke and carbon monoxide detector
  • 2% prefer a smart carbon monoxide detector, like the Google Nest Protect
  • 21% were unsure what kind they have

Although using a battery-powered or plug-in carbon monoxide detector is most popular, smart carbon monoxide detectors are poised to become the best carbon monoxide detector to safeguard your home.

While they’re generally more expensive, they offer many handy features for protecting your home, such as smoke detection and compatibility with different smart home equipment.

Here are a handful of other benefits to getting one:

  • There aren’t any jarring beeps, since it will alert you there’s an issue using a voice or phone notification.
  • You don’t have to hunt down where the problem originated, because the detector will reveal where it is, like your basement.
  • You can silence it with a single tap of your phone.
  • There won’t be any annoying chirps in the middle of the night because the detector tests its sensors and batteries by itself. Then, it warns you through phone alerts.

Monthly? Yearly? 70% Don’t Test Their Detectors Regularly Enough

If you don’t own a smart detector, it’s crucial to regularly test it and replace dead batteries.

Of the Minnesotans we surveyed:

  • 15% test monthly, as advised by manufacturers
  • 31% test every six months
  • 21% test every year
  • 9% have never tested it

Carbon Monoxide Detectors Expire, but 63% Didn’t Know That

Similar to smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors need to be replaced consistently. It depends on what model you have, but most last for 5–7 years. Smart detectors may live up to 10 years.

Of the people we surveyed, 37% said they did not know their detector expires. Most detectors will let you know they’re nearing the end of their life span with five beeps every minute or so.

Google It? Not Everyone Knows What to Do if Carbon Monoxide Detector Sounds

Every moment counts when carbon monoxide collects in a smaller space like your home. When your detector becomes aware of hazardous levels of carbon monoxide, it’s going to alert you through a series of four loud beeps. You should exit your home as soon as possible for fresh air and dial 911.

But not everyone we surveyed recognized quite what to do. Of the people we surveyed, only 43% said they’d get out immediately and/or call 911.

Sometimes detectors should beep when they need batteries or are wearing out. If you’re hearing a chirp about every minute, try getting new batteries. Most manufacturers encourage replacing them monthly in battery-powered models. Or after six months if they’re hardwired or plugged into a wall.

The safety, health and comfort of your family is always our top priority at Ditter Cooling, Heating, & Electrical because we’re not comfortable until you are. Heating and cooling isn’t just our profession, it’s our passion. If you don’t have a carbon monoxide detector or would like to try a smart model, our professionals can help. We’ve been performing expert HVAC service here since 1946 and would be more than happy to assist you. Contact us at 763-200-5055 for fast, friendly service today.