CO and other detectors and alarms

The need was for an oxygen concentrator prescription after heart surgery. The solution was a genset in the back of the tow truck. The problem was CO getting into the RV when the wind went the wrong direction.

You must have functioning detectors and alarms in your RV anytime you are anywhere near anything combusting including gensets, furnaces, RV refrigerators, or catalytic or similar space heaters. You should also have combustible gas detectors in case of leaks. (See the Safe Home Products Page for definitions)

RV ratings for alarms and detectors account for the confined space in an RV and the broader range of expected temperature and other conditions, among other things. Make sure any alarms and detectors in your RV have a proper UL listing for RV use.

Detectors age and may need replacement every few years or so. Read the owner’s manual for guidance on this.

Where detectors are installed depends upon what it is trying to detect. Smoke and CO detectors are usually placed high on the wall and combustable gas detectors low.

Check the UL page on CO Product Safety Tips or PDF

The Safe T Alert is a common detector for RV’s. It runs on 8-16v with a 60mA current draw and an operational temperature range of -40F to +140F – this provides a contrast to the usual 110v +40F to +100F specifications for a typical household detector. (Camping World has these for a bit under $60 – Safe-T-Alert Carbon Monoxide Detector with FREE Smoke Alarm and Safe-T-Alert Detectors)

Here’s an Atwood RV alarm at PPL with a digital display that also runs a bit under $60. With a display, you can see how much the stove and oven add to rig CO content. See the battery powered CO Detector at Atwood. Be careful not to use micro measuring to feed paranoic tendencies!

Here’s the Atwood for about $50 at Mac the Fire Guy along with some other fire safety stuff.

The Army has Guidance on the Use of Heaters Inside Tents and Other Enclosed Shelters.

RV Safety Systems has Safety Related Alarm Systems for Buses/Motorhomes that provides some good data as well as descriptions of other alarms you might consider.

The Wisonsin Department of Health Services has a good summary of Portable Generator Hazards that includes CO as well as electrical hazards.

Make sure you have the detectors you need and that they are working properly when you use your RV. It is much better to be awakened in the night by an obnoxious alarm than to suffer fire or other disaster.

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