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Winter is still here, meaning homeowners need to be aware of carbon monoxide

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) - The higher temperatures don't mean that winter is over in the Triangle. Heating systems, which use fossil fuels and generate carbon monoxide, will still be needed.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas that can kill. That's why state law requires carbon monoxide detectors in many situations.

North Carolina law says carbon monoxide detectors must be in all lodging facilities, like hotels, as well as in rental properties. They’re also required in homes built after 2011.

The detectors come in various configurations. Some are combined with fire alarms, and some are battery operated. They all do the same thing — they sound some sort of alert or alarm when carbon monoxide is detected in the air.

But, you have to trust the alert.

When Raleigh resident Lisa Luten got a warning from her detector while she was preparing for vacation, she thought it was a mistake.

“I reset the detector and continued to pack,” she said. “Fifteen minutes later, it gave me another alert saying ‘heads up, carbon monoxide is in the air.’"

Once again, she said she reset the device.

It turns out her home’s heating system was malfunctioning and was pumping carbon monoxide gas into her house. As that happened, the alerts kept escalating.

“By the time I checked it the fourth time, the app was alerting me there were dangerous levels and we needed to leave immediately,” she said.

At that point, she took her dogs outside and opened all the windows and doors so the house would air out.

“I’ve done a lot of research since then and know how dangerous carbon monoxide is now,’’ she said.

According to the CDC, between 20,000 and 30,000 people are sickened and about 500 people die every year in the United States from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Luten installed her detector during a recent home renovation, so it’s hard-wired to her homes electric power supply.

Nest also makes a battery operated unit which it claims will work for a decade.

That’s a long time to trust a battery. CBS 17 went to the company to ask how a user can tell the device is still functioning properly over the years. 

“It tests itself automatically 400 times a day,” says Erick Low of Nest.

He said the device also offers users a visual indication.

“Every night before you go to sleep, it’ll give you a green glow when you turn off the lights so it’s going to know its OK."

Low added that the product can be tested at any time through the app.

North Carolina law requires carbon monoxide detectors in hotels, public lodging, and rental units to be inspected annually by local fire departments.

The laws vary from state to state and the Lauren Project has put an interactive map online which allows people to check their state’s carbon monoxide detector laws.

Anyone who doesn't have a carbon monoxide detector should first complain to their landlord. If the problem persists, report it to the local fire department's fire marshal.


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