About lunchtime, I was decorating Lauren's birthday cake when I heard a really loud, really annoying alarm coming from upstairs. We have at least a half-dozen hard wired smoke detectors in the house, and the one at the top of the stairs is a combination smoke and carbon monoxide detector. It was beeping to alert us of high carbon monoxide levels.
Hmm... we just replaced the battery in this detector a few weeks ago when it started making the same shrill noise. The CO alarm could be silenced for about a minute at a time, but it wouldn't stop completely. We turn off the gas oven and the thermostats that control the gas heat. We opened the doors and the windows. The alarm still beeped.
At this point, we had so much fresh (cold) air flowing through the house that neither of us thought there could still be dangerous levels of carbon monoxide left indoors.
I sent Tim and the kids to Target to get a new CO detector hoping to tell if we really had a problem or if it was just a problem with the CO detector. The new CO detector didn't alert. Then I read the full package directions for the new CO detector. At low levels, CO detectors can take several hours to sound an alarm. Hmm... we still couldn't know if there's a problem or if the new detector just hasn't been in our house long enough yet.
We decided to call the Fire Department to check things out.
They nicely checked the CO levels throughout the house and didn't find them to be elevated. The alarm is still going off. We eventually figured out that the CO detector has to be unplugged in order to reset itself after it sounds an alarm. The firefighters suspect the gas stove is causing a problem and call the gas company. A representative from the gas company checks everything out in our house and didn't find any problems.
He did tell us his best guess as to what had happened. A gas oven does put off carbon monoxide while you are using it. Normally it's not enough CO to cause any problems. I had been using the oven for several hours this morning, though, and it probably was so long that the carbon monoxide built up and triggered the alarm. Thankfully, there are a couple of easy solutions. I can just use the oven for shorter periods of time. If I am going to use the oven for a longer period of time, I can run the vent fan in the kitchen so that the excess carbon monoxide is safely vented to the outside.
I'm thankful that everything checked out fine and that none of us suffered any ill effects from the carbon monoxide. I'm also thankful that we learned how to prevent problems in the future.
The next time I dry apples in the oven, I'll run the vent fan and hope that I don't have to call the Fire Department to check out another Carbon Monoxide alert.