WA Laws/Rules Regarding Smoke Detectors and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
This article explains what the Washington home inspector Standards of Practice have to say (or not say) about smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, and highlights what some of the requirements are about each for real estate transactions (which have nothing to do with inspectors). In the end, we include links that may be important to you. By reading this material and checking the links, you will know what is included and not included in the inspection process and what is required during real estate transactions.
Washington’s SOP does not mention carbon monoxide detectors at all, and the only place where smoke detectors are mentioned (WAC 308-408C-110) it states that “the inspector is not required to inspect ancillary systems including but not limited to smoke/heat detectors”.
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How to Install Smoke Detectors
The ideal placement for smoke detectors is at bed level. (Well, specifically at the level of your nose and mouth when you’re in bed.) That’s because they’re meant to alert you to dangerous smoke when you’re sleeping. But in practice, many families cannot install their smoke alarms at bed height due to curious little hands, wagging dog tails, and other daily life that could affect a detector’s function. If that’s the case, install your smoke alarms on the ceiling or high on up the wall, within arm’s reach and at least six inches from where the wall and ceiling meet. Do not place them near air-conditioning, fans, or heating ducts, since this could interrupt the airflow of smoke needed to activate the alarm.
Smoke alarms save lives, but only if they’re working properly. Test monthly!
Where to Place Smoke Alarms
The placement of smoke detectors depends on the layout of the room, the HVAC systems, and the size of your home. At the very least, you should install one detector on each floor, one near the kitchen (but not over the stove), and one in each sleeping area. That’s the bare minimum. Err on the safe side and place an alarm in each and every bedroom, even in the hallway outside each bedroom, one adjacent to the kitchen, near fireplaces, and in other strategic areas of your home, depending on its size.
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Test Your Smoke Detectors
Your alarms are pretty self-sufficient, but you should do regular testing and seasonal battery refreshes. I like to test my smoke alarms about once a month, typically in conjunction with another sporadic chore, like window washing. (Blech.) You should also swap out old batteries for new ones at least once a year. At our house, we do it twice a year, whenever we’re turning our clocks back/forward for Daylight Saving’s, and use a smoke spray to properly test every unit. The test buttons only test power to the unit.
One manufacturer, the Pittway Corporation, which makes about 70 percent of the detectors sold in the United States, recommends that a detector be discarded after 10 years. But the Black & Decker Corporation, another leading producer, makes no recommendation.
What? CLEANING YOUR ALARM? YES - YOUR ALARM SHOULD BE CLEANED AT LEAST ONCE A YEAR
To clean your alarm, remove it from the mounting bracket as outlined at the beginning of this section. You can clean the interior of your alarm (sensing chamber) by using compressed air or a vacuum cleaner hose and blowing or vacuuming through the openings around the perimeter of the alarm. The outside of the alarm can be wiped with a damp cloth. After cleaning, reinstall your alarm and test the alarm by using the test button. If cleaning does not restore the alarm to normal operation the alarm should be replaced.
Keep your family safe by also installing CO alarms near ALL the bedrooms
Carbon monoxide alarms help save lives every day. Learn what they do, how to install them, and where you should place CO detectors.
What is carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide is known as the “silent killer” because it is odorless, tasteless, and colorless. It’s also toxic since the gas can prevent your body from properly transporting oxygen. If inhaled in high concentrations, carbon monoxide poisoning can happen quickly; it can also occur slowly if toxic gas levels build up slowly over time. Just as dangerous as a fire!
What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?
People who have been exposed to carbon monoxide experience a range of symptoms that may include headaches, confusion, drowsiness, dizziness, burning eyes, and loss of consciousness. An acute case can result in brain damage and death. Note that children, seniors, and people who have pre-existing respiratory or heart conditions are often more sensitive to the effects of carbon monoxide. alarms are cheap so Install them!!!
What are possible sources of carbon monoxide in my home?
Carbon monoxide is a natural by-product of many home appliances. If you use charcoal, gasoline, kerosene, wood, propane, natural gas, or heating oil to create energy or heat – hot water heaters, grills, furnaces, fireplaces, stoves, room heaters, etc. – then there is potential for carbon monoxide in your home. It’s important to have these products installed by a professional, since proper installation, ventilation, and maintenance will reroute any carbon monoxide emissions out of your home to keep your family safe.
Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas known as the “silent killer”
What are carbon monoxide alarms?
Carbon monoxide detectors, also known as CO alarms, function similarly to smoke alarms. If carbon monoxide levels are present in your home, the detector will emit a sharp beeping sound to alert you to the danger. Like smoke alarms, it is important to change your CO detector batteries regularly; I like to schedule new batteries for Daylight Savings time change since they make it easy to remember this twice-yearly swap.
How do I install a carbon monoxide alarm?
Heat and smoke rise, which is why we place smoke alarms high on the wall or ceiling. Carbon monoxide, however, mixes with the air. For this reason, it is preferable to install CO alarms at knee level – the approximate height of a sleeping person’s nose and mouth. This is why combo detectors are not the best choice!!!
If you have young children or pets that could tamper (play) with your detectors, you can move them up to chest height. Another option is to place them in a hard-to-reach area, where even curious hands and overzealous tails would have a hard time reaching. Bear in mind that a CO detector should never be blocked by furniture, curtains, or other objects, as restricted airflow can affect its function. Testing monthly should also be on your to-do list.
A single-function carbon monoxide alarm is recommended, but if you are installing a dual smoke-CO detector ( Because You Selling your Home?!), place it on the ceiling so it can detect smoke.
Carbon monoxide detectors should be strategically placed around your home as should smoke detectors.
Where should I place carbon monoxide detectors in my home?
Since we are most vulnerable to the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning while we sleep, it is important to place alarms near all your family’s bedrooms. If you only have one CO alarm (BUY MORE), place it as close to everyone’s sleeping area as possible.
Ideally, you should have carbon monoxide detectors placed throughout your home, as you do smoke alarms. You should place a CO detector in each major area of your home: in the kitchen, in your living/dining room, in your bedrooms, and the office. If you have children or elderly family members living with you, provide extra protection near their rooms. If you live in a multi-story home, be sure to place at least one carbon monoxide detector on each level.
If your furnace is located in the basement, be sure to place a CO detector there, as well. Likewise, if you have a gas clothes dryer, put an alarm in the laundry room. Place one in the garage, if you park your cars there. Wherever you have a solid fuel-fired appliance – anything that could produce carbon monoxide – you should also have a CO alarm.
Washington State LAW:
29-3-16a. Smoke detectors in one-and two-family dwellings: ...in residential units; penalty. (a) On or before the first day of July, one thousand nine hundred ninety-one, an operational smoke detector shall be installed in the immediate vicinity of each sleeping area within all one- and two-family dwellings, including any “manufactured home” as that term, is defined in subsection (j), section two, article nine, chapter twenty-one of this code.
The smoke detector shall be capable of sensing visible or invisible particles of combustion and shall meet the specifications and be installed as provided in the national fire protection association standard 72, “Standard for the Installation, Maintenance and Use of Household Fire Warning Equipment”, 1996 edition, and in the manufacturer’s specifications. When activated, the smoke detector shall provide an alarm suitable to warn the occupants of the danger of fire.
(b) The owner of each dwelling described in subsection (a) of this section shall provide, install and replace the operational smoke detectors required by this section. So as to assure that the smoke detector continues to be operational, in each dwelling described in subsection (a) of this section which is not occupied by the owner thereof, the tenant in any dwelling shall perform routine maintenance on the smoke detectors within the dwelling.
Now you know, the rest is up to you to protect your family.