Carbon monoxide detectors soon required in new buildings
by Jazz Clark
An amendment to state law requires carbon dioxide detectors to be installed in all new buildings, effective September 1.
Senate Bill 597 was signed into law by Governor Tomblin on March 10 and covers hotels, motels, apartments, dormitories, care facilities and any family homes to be leased or rented.
Previously, all one and two-story homes built after July 1, 1988 with a gas-burning fuel or cooking source were required to have detectors. Certain buildings such as hotels remained unregulated under state law, however.
Fines for failure to place and maintain the necessary detectors range from a single offense of $200 to a third (or more) offenses of $2,000. Each offense classified as a misdemeanor.
Construction of new structures won’t necessarily change because of these detectors, though people may want to go ahead and install detectors as close as possible to the main power source, said Clyde Cummings, code inspector for the West Virginia Fire Marshal.
By January 1, 2013, all detectors must be hard-wired into the existing electrical system with a battery backup.
Monoxide detectors are barely more expensive than smoke detectors, said Cummings, and most are now sold as a combination unit of both smoke and monoxide.
Cummings suggests homeowners may want to use electric heat instead of the gas-powered heat which adds danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.
The bill was pushed mainly in response to a tragedy in late January. A construction worker named William Moran suffered from a lethal dose of carbon monoxide in South Charleston. A faulty pipe in the Holiday Inn burst, and went undetected because detectors were optional.
While the new law will help, accidents always have a chance of happening.
“Nothing is 100 percent,” said Cummings. “There could still be failure in the unit, or someone could come to fix a failing unit and put it back incorrectly.”
With the staggering amount of sources for possible carbon monoxide in a home, safety is key.
“Everything from fires, running a car engine or generator to heating your home with a fossil fuel, will produce CO2,” said Tony Turner, director of Indoor Air Quality for the Division of Health & Human Resources.
Chronic lower respiratory diseases such as those caused by C02 exposure are the third leading cause of death in West Virginia, according to the West Virginia Division of Health & Human Resources.
About 170 people in the United States die every year from CO produced by non-automotive consumer products as well.
Turner urged all homeowners to install the detectors in all common areas and sleeping quarters.