Fire Side Chat: More of What You Need to Know About CO

The heightened attention given to CO detection in recent years is reflected in updates to the International Residential Code and NFPA 720. Learn what these changes are, their importance, and when and where not to apply them.

Papers Provide Placement Practices

As a result of these studies, the Technical Committee made the following amendments to the 2012 edition of NFPA 720: Requirements for Carbon Monoxide Detectors —Carbon monoxide detectors shall be installed as specified in the manufacturer’s published instructions in accordance with and, or (3):

(1) On the ceiling in the same room as permanently installed fuel-burning appliances

(2) Centrally located on every habitable level and in every HVAC zone of the building

(3) A performance-based design in accordance with —The location of carbon monoxide detectors shall be based on an evaluation of potential ambient sources and flows of carbon monoxide, moisture, temperature, dust, or fumes and of electrical or mechanical influences to minimize nuisance alarms. —The selection and placement of [carbon monoxide] detectors shall take into account both the performance characteristics of the detector and the areas into which the detectors are to be installed to prevent nuisance alarms or improper operation after installation.

For residential occupancies, the Technical Committee added the following to the standard: —Carbon monoxide alarms or detectors shall be installed as follows:

(1) Outside of each separate dwelling unit sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms

(2) On every occupiable level of a dwelling unit, including basements, excluding attics and crawl spaces

(3) Other locations where required by applicable laws, codes, or standards —Each alarm or detector shall be located on the wall, ceiling, or other location as specified in the manufacturer’s published instructions that accompany the unit.

The committee also added an annex to that explains effective performance is generally not dependent on mounting height. This is because the density of CO is similar to that of air at room
temperature, and unlike smoke CO generally mixes readily with air.

In Sum: 3 Steps to Proper CO Detection

In conclusion, the installer should be familiar with NFPA 720 and the manufacturer’s instructions for the device being installed. The installer should also be familiar with the occupancy and the location of any fuel-burning appliances. Finally, the installer should be aware of the requirements for CO detection contained within the IRC as well as any state or local regulations.

Shane Clary, Ph.D., has more than 37 years of security and fire alarm industry experience. He serves on a number of NFPA technical committees, and is Vice President of Codes and Standards Compliance for Pacheco, Calif.-headquartered Bay Alarm Co.

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About the Author


Shane Clary, Ph.D., is Security Sales & Integration’s “Fire Side Chat” columnist. He has more than 37 years of security and fire alarm industry experience. He serves on a number of NFPA technical committees, and is vice president of Codes and Standards Compliance for Pancheco, Calif.-based Bay Alarm Co.

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