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Old 03-03-2015, 12:06 AM   #1
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Secondary CO2 sensor overkill?

Just brought home my first sportsmobile and my first RV with heat. That's a huge bonus for us as we camp in chilly temps quite a bit in the spring and the fall and will probably get a lot of use out of the heat. One concern we have is our dogs. We got a 1989 with the pop top. We will usually be sleeping upstairs and the dogs will be downstairs. Knowing our dogs, they will be sleeping on the floor, as close to the heater vent as they can get.

I've got a couple of questions:

1) would it be overkill to get another CO2 detector and mount it at floor level?
2) is it safe to run the heater through the night? if so, with windows open and what windows?

Thanks,
Dan
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Old 03-03-2015, 08:52 AM   #2
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Re: Secondary CO2 sensor overkill?

CO is slightly lighter than air and so close that it's not like propane that sinks and a reason propane detectors are at lower levels. That said, it never hurts to have a backup CO detector. Leaving a widow cracked is a good idea running a propane heater in an enclosed compartment. Most PH tops breath enough IMO where you wouldn't have to worry in most circumstances but I still keep a couple windows cracked. Also helps a little with condensation.
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Old 03-03-2015, 10:12 AM   #3
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Re: Secondary CO2 sensor overkill?

Nothing wrong with a backup CO sensor. You can get one that is battery powered as a second, after using one in our furnace room before switching to geothermal, I gave it to my dad for his slide in. It was pretty simple, just a PPM display and alarm.

The original sensor will expire, and probably has expired. Newer ones have a date printed right on them, so I'd also check and replace the original. I don't know that it's truly necessary, however CO is not something to mess around with, so I slept a lot better with a new sensor.

I don't keep a window cracked, but I know many people do. Again, it's hard to go so far that I'd say you were being overcautious.
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Old 03-03-2015, 11:28 AM   #4
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Re: Secondary CO2 sensor overkill?

I like a sensor that tell you the PPM so you can see if it is raising before it gets to the alarm state.

Do you have a heater that brings in outside combustion air and exhausts to the outside. If so you don't need a window open. If you are using a catalytic heater then you do need some ventilation.
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Old 03-03-2015, 01:14 PM   #5
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Re: Secondary CO2 sensor overkill?

As Jage said, if you still have the original CO2 alarm in the van then it's certainly expired and likely even non-functional (I think newer ones turn themselves off after "x" number of years).

When I bought my 98 SMB a few years ago I had to replace my alarm. The newer ones look very similar, but I found that the inset size was a bit larger and I had to enlarge the hole in the cabinet a little to get it to fit. I replaced with a unit from "Safe T Alert," which seems to be the most common one used in an RV.

If you have propane, too, you might as well get a combo unit like this: http://www.amazon.com/Motorhome-Trailer ... B003ZJLD3G
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Old 03-03-2015, 02:35 PM   #6
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Re: Secondary CO2 sensor overkill?

I would vote against a combo unit because, as someone else noted, the two have different characteristics. Propane sinks, so you want the detector at floor level. CO is more neutral, so you want the sensor at head level. If I were to have two CO detectors, I'd have one at standing head level, and one at sleeping head level. None at propane level unless I slept on the floor (but even so I'd still have separate detectors vs. a combo unit).

Even on expensive boats the trend is to battery CO detectors vs. hard-wired ones. Easy to change (since CO detectors have a finite life), can remove batts in off season, etc.

I like the ones with a digital PPM display. I will post a link later when at home to one on Amazon.

Edited to add: Okay, here is the one I have. I did some research before buying it and at the time it fulfilled my parameters. Seems to work, as I get a slightly elevated reading (but below alarm level) if I have been using the stove for a long cooking session without windows open.

This is the model:

Kidde KN-COPP-B-LS 900-0230 Nighthawk Carbon Monoxide Alarm, Battery Operated with Digital Display

Link to it on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Kidde-KN-COPP-B-L ... al+Display
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Old 03-03-2015, 07:11 PM   #7
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Re: Secondary CO2 sensor overkill?

To give a little more info, it looks like I have a Suburban heater which I think takes fresh air for intake (from the outside?) and definitely vents to the outside, I can feel hot air coming out of the vent behind the drivers side door when the heat is running.

I also have a Kiddie Nighthawk CO detector. After doing some reading on here and learning that these expire I went out to check the date and it doesn't seem that anyone wrote the date on the label when it was installed so who knows how long ago that was but it certainly doesn't look like it was OE, it's newer looking than everything else in the van.

So, it sounds like I'm looking at needing to replace that CO detector, which is at head level when sitting on the couch and also pick up a Propane detector to mount close to the floor? Is that the general consensus?
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Old 03-03-2015, 09:40 PM   #8
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Re: Secondary CO2 sensor overkill?

Quote:
Originally Posted by dfinn

So, it sounds like I'm looking at needing to replace that CO detector, which is at head level when sitting on the couch and also pick up a Propane detector to mount close to the floor? Is that the general consensus?
That's what I would do. If you sleep in the penthouse you could consider a second CO detector (maybe just set it on the rail when you sleep up there). But the main thing is at least one known new/good one. A propane detector, if you install one, right at floor level (propane sinks, so imagine where it would "spill" to if you had a leak). I believe propane detectors are usually hard-wired.

Interestingly, the propane detector in my '97 SMB was just lying in the electrical area under the couch - and there was no "hole" anywhere in the van where it would ever have been installed (?). Floor level is good, but expecting the propane to flow through the solid "wall" panel of the AC breaker box and over the lip under the couch frame was maybe a bit optimistic.

One thing is that while propane is nothing to be too casual about - at least you can smell it if there is a leak (unless you are one of the small percentage of people who cannot smell the odorant they add to propane). With CO you have no warning at all.

On boats there is often a solenoid as part of the propane "sniffer," such that the propane supply is shut off if the sniffer detects propane. But then too, it's more dangerous on a boat because there is no place for it to sink to except in your bilge ("basement"). Not to mention no place to run to if the boat catches fire.
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Old 03-03-2015, 09:42 PM   #9
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Re: Secondary CO2 sensor overkill?

Quote:
Originally Posted by dfinn

So, it sounds like I'm looking at needing to replace that CO detector, which is at head level when sitting on the couch and also pick up a Propane detector to mount close to the floor? Is that the general consensus?
Pretty much. Propane pools due to its specific gravity and is why they're mounted low. CO is so close to air that it mixes fairly evenly. Anything can fail but it's rare that CO kills somebody in an RV. Usually it's a stupid move that gets people into trouble like using a BBQ inside a camper. But you never know and cracking a window is just a little insurance along with the detectors.

My CO detector went out of date a few years ago and I replaced it. I still think a backup battery operated model is worth a look considering how cheap they are but I didn't want to be w/o one if the batteries failed so I replaced the solid mounted unit. YMMV. I still only have one.
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Old 03-05-2015, 09:58 PM   #10
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Re: Secondary CO2 sensor overkill?

While playing around with the current CO sensor I noticed that it has the ability to tell me when it's end of life'd. It will flash END or something alone those lines on the display. It's not currently doing that and seems to be functioning normally. Are these built in end of life detectors pretty reliable?

I understand that these aren't something to mess around with but also hate to replace something that's perfectly good.
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