Our Carbon Monoxide Detector Dies a Noisy Death

Reader Contribution by Ellen Sandbeck
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Last Friday was Walt’s birthday, and for reasons I have never been able to comprehend, Walt’s Birthday is not a national holiday, so he went to work as usual. I had things to do, so I got down to it. I do remember there was a single, quiet electronic chirp some time during the morning, but I hadn’t paid much attention, assuming that one of our cheap, pay-as-you-go cell phones needed recharging.

Luckily, the weather was lovely, and I had a worm order to fill; the dogs were outside, and I was on my way out when the alarm struck. Now, like most other Americans, I have been subjected to the hideous shriek of a smoke detector on many occasions, most of which had to do with burning toast or forgetting to turn the ventilator fan on while roasting a turkey, but this particular electronic shriek, on this particular Friday, was so loud that I couldn’t determine where it was coming from. I rushed to what I thought was the most likely culprit, the kitchen smoke alarm, stood on a chair and pulled it off the wall, then with shaking hands wrenched its batteries out. The shrieking continued, and was so loud that I felt as if I were going mad. I rushed down to the basement, pulled the carbon monoxide detector out of its outlet, and the shrieking stopped. Blessed silence. Possible permanent hearing loss. I looked at the thing and wondered whether perhaps there had been a power surge or outage because of the road construction outside. I held my breath, because carbon monoxide is a deadly killer that

cannot be seen, tasted, or smelled by human beings. I plugged the detector back in the wall, thinking that if it didn’t go off again, it had probably just been a malfunction. I went back outside, and was very grateful that the dogs had not been indoors when the alarm went off, and that they hadn’t been home alone when the thing went off. I don’t think any non-deaf dog could retain its sanity if stuck indoors with a shrieking carbon monoxide alarm.

About half an hour of worm harvesting later, I heard the CO alarm go off again. Damn! Damn! Damn! I rushed to the door, pulled it open, grabbed the handy set of ear protectors that was hanging to the right of the door, ran downstairs and pulled the alarm out of the outlet again, then grabbed a phone and ran outside. I called my husband at work. He thought it might be that the darn thing was old enough that it had just given up the ghost; we had bought it when we first moved into our house twelve years ago. We are a one-vehicle family, so Walt left work a little early, went to the hardware store, and bought a new detector.

Once plugged in, the new detector did not detect any carbon monoxide, which was a real relief to me, since I had already spent several hours out in the garage, harvesting worms and wondering what could be smoldering, shorting out, leaking gas, or getting ready to explode, and pondering on what I would do if I had to start all my research projects over again. Also there is a definite limit to how long I can go without access to a bathroom. And, Walt got a slightly shortened work day for his birthday, so all’s well that ends well!

Our new carbon monoxide detector, by the way, has a battery backup, which our old one did not, and has a seven year warranty. The back of the old one indicates that it had a 5 year warranty. Whew!

Moral of the story: check the warranty date on your carbon monoxide detector, and replace it if it is superannuated; the life you save may be your own. Believe me, you do not want to hear the darn thing go off simply because it has lost its tiny electronic mind!