Carbon monoxide detector law sparks worry locally

Exemptions are available to the state rule calling for detectors in buildings in Washington.

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A new requirement for carbon monoxide detectors in homes has raised a number of burning questions among property owners and developers.

With news of the new requirement circulating locally Wednesday, the Walla Walla County Joint Development Agency was already receiving multiple calls and questions from residents about whether they need carbon monoxide detectors, said building official Dave Collette.

In short, state law is requiring alarms to be installed on existing apartments, condominiums, hotels, motels and single-family residences Jan. 1.

The new law is a matter of safety, according to an explanation on the regulations.

Between 1990 and 2005, 1,000 Washington residents were killed as a result of carbon monoxide exposure. Generators in garages, or near air intakes, and use of charcoal or gas grills indoors, are common causes of carbon monoxide poisoning, according to an explanation of the new law. Fuel-burning appliances, attached garages and fireplaces are also common sources.

According to an Associated Press article, the state Legislature ordered changes in the building code after a 2006 windstorm in the Puget Sound area that led to treatment of more than 300 people and the deaths of eight linked to carbon monoxide.

Collette said some confusion may exist about the requirements if consumers aren't educated about exemptions with the new law. One inquiry this morning came from the owner of a hardware store, wondering if a massive inventory of carbon monoxide detectors should be stocked in preparation for the changeover.

Those exempt are dwellings and other facilities that do not contain a fuel-burning appliance, a fuel-burning fireplace or have an attached garage.

According to the law: "Sleeping units or dwelling units in new or existing hotels, motels, college dormitories, and Department of Social and Health Services licensed boarding home and residential treatment facilities, which do not themselves contain a fuel-burning appliance, or a fuel-burning fireplace, or an attached garage, need not be provided with (carbon monoxide) alarms provided that: the sleeping unit or dwelling unit is not adjacent to any room that contains a fuel-burning appliance, a fuel-burning fireplace, or an attached garage; and the sleeping unit or dwelling unit is not connected by duct work or ventilation shafts with a supply or return register in the same room to any room containing a fuel-burning appliance, a fuel-burning fireplace, or to an attached garage; and the building has a common area (carbon monoxide) alarm system."

The alarms were already required on new single-family homes and residences, including apartments, condos, hotels and motels with the passage of a state law that took effect Jan. 1, 2011.

Owner-occupied single-family residences legally occupied before July 26, 2009, are not required to have the alarms until they are sold. The seller is required to equip the residence with alarms before anybody else legally occupies the home.

The carbon monoxide detectors retail for upward of $15.

According to the law, alarms must be located outside of each separate sleeping area, in the immediate vicinity of the bedroom and on each level of the residence. Single station carbon monoxide alarms must be listed as complying with UL 2034, and installed in accordance with the code and the manufacturer's instructions. Combined carbon monoxide and smoke alarms are permitted.

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