CO/Propane alarm has gotten SUPER sensitive - Fiberglass RV


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Old 09-16-2021, 03:10 PM   #1
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CO/Propane alarm has gotten SUPER sensitive

Yes, I've read other posts about how sensitive these sensor/alarms always are, and yes, mine went off after I ate beans and passed gas. Almost any strong aromatic smell does set them off. However, after full timing for nearly 2 years, in the last couple of months, the alarm is going off more and more frequently and often for no reason I can figure out. For instance, I was camped where it was quite chilly at night and up into the high 80's in the daytime. It was also windy and dusty, so I didn't have all my windows open, but did keep the ceiling vent for the fan open. In the middle of the day, with no one in the camper, the alarm would start beeping and continue for hours. Just because it got hot inside? The alarm also went off while I was driving, even when I had turned off the propane and bled out the burners. It went off in the middle of the night when it was raining - with windows closed and ceiling vent open. That time, the only way I could get it to stop was to run the AC on the chance that would reduce the humidity and stop the alarm.
So I borrowed a portable propane sensor from a friend just to be sure there wasn't a propane leak somewhere in the camper. This is a 16' Casita FD which has a propane option for the refrigerator and the hot water heater, as well as the propane heater and the two burners. We checked all the areas we could reach where there could be a propane leak including under cabinets where lines might be, inside the hot water heater area and the frig. Propane detector did not find any leaks. Yesterday, when the alarm again went off, I held the propane detector next to the opening in the camper's alarm - nothing. Then I tried turning up the portable sensor/detector to maximum sensitivity. After 15 seconds, it did indicate something mild. This sensor at the usual level of sensitivity will detect a tiny propane leak in 5 seconds. After several more incidents, I have concluded that my camper's alarm has become more and more sensitive over the last 2 years. I did try wiping off the face of the alarm in case there was dust or something. No help. Have other RVers had these alarms get super sensitized over time? Do they just wear out and need to be replaced? I took off my sneakers, which were warm and very slightly fragrant and put them under the bed -- alarm went off. I cooked some highly fragrant Chai and left the pan open on the stove - the alarm went off. This is way too sensitive, not helpful and going to drive me crazy - not keep me safe. Believe me, I have a very sensitive nose. When we were trying out the portable sensor, I could still smell propane after it no longer detected any. If I can't smell anything that would set off an alarm, what is going on? Any thoughts?
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Old 09-16-2021, 03:26 PM   #2
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Buy a new alarm and do it right away.
The stink in propane goes away with a really slow/small leak.
Its your life so stay safe.
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Old 09-16-2021, 05:04 PM   #3
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Yes! Detectors have a lifespan. In normal residential service, I believe most say to replace every 10 years. But they can wear our much faster when they are exposed to temperature extremes and other harsh environmental conditions (dust, pollen, smoke...). So I'd expect less than 10 years in RV service.

I assume yours is 3-4 years old, based on your trailer profile. That's pretty young to be malfunctioning. However, you don't know how long and under what conditions they were stored before Casita installed them.

When in doubt, replace. False alarms are a common indication of end-of-life. Same thing happened with our household smoke detectors. By the calendar they should have still been good, but they started going off often and for no reason. Replaced and all was quiet.

If you put in a new one and it continues to alarm, then you have to look for a cause. In the meantime, just to be safe you could shut off the gas at the tank until you get a replacement installed.
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Old 09-16-2021, 05:28 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Jon in AZ View Post
Yes! detectors have a lifespan. In normal residential service, I believe most say to replace every 10 years. But they can wear our much faster when they are exposed to temperature extremes and other harsh environmental conditions (dust, pollen, smoke...).
I was calibrating an LEL, (lower explosive limit) gas detector on an oil field gas compressor, before we shipped it. Suddenly it went to zero. The building guys were sealing the windows with silicone. Turns out that whatever vapor that comes off silicone destroyed the catalytic bead sensor. This was only because it was operating at the time.
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Old 09-16-2021, 05:31 PM   #5
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I was calibrating an LEL, (lower explosive limit) gas detector on an oil field gas compressor, before we shipped it. Suddenly it went to zero. The building guys were sealing the windows with silicone. Turns out that whatever vapor that comes off silicone destroyed the catalytic bead sensor. This was only because it was operating at the time.
Guess that's yet another reason to step outside when you have to... ahem... off-gas.
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Old 09-16-2021, 06:15 PM   #6
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I assume yours is 3-4 years old, based on your trailer profile. That's pretty young to be malfunctioning. However, you don't know how long and under what conditions they were stored before Casita installed them.
The lifespan clock does not start until the propane detector is hooked up to electricity, so it wouldn't matter how they were stored.
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Old 09-17-2021, 10:34 AM   #7
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We have two Co/Gas detection units one works on battery when no shore power and the other is non functional without shore power. The Good battery powered unit is located less than 4' from fridge, stove, hot water tank and furnace.

We had a gas leak once it was a faulty tank; we got it from a tank exchange site. Since then we only use our own tanks and have them refilled. Took days to get rid of all the smell. Propane was entering through the open front window; we were awake so no alarm needed that time smell got to us as it was activated.

The non-battery powered Co/Gas alarm unit led screen shows amount of gas, trace dose not set it off. We have to light the stove. if it did go off with trace we might get alarms when lighting it.
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Old 09-17-2021, 10:45 AM   #8
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How about a link or a brand name for this CO/Gas detector?
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Old 09-17-2021, 10:46 AM   #9
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The detectors can be replaced with a little work and replaced. The easiest solution.....pull the fuse and simply replace with a battery operated detector. Cheap....easy and works well. Good luck.
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Old 09-17-2021, 10:50 AM   #10
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How about a link or a brand name for this CO/Gas detector?
Yes, I would like that also.
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Old 09-17-2021, 10:50 AM   #11
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The lifespan clock does not start until the propane detector is hooked up to electricity, so it wouldn't matter how they were stored.
So they say. Same as tires. But the storage environment can matter. And I'm not sure I'd trust a detector (or a set of tires) that's been sitting in storage several years regardless. A detector failing after less than 4 years is unusual. Most likely a result of operating conditions after installation, but who really knows? Replace and move on.
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Old 09-17-2021, 10:55 AM   #12
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The sensor in these units has a definite life span. Some of these sensors are designed to alarm when they no longer function properly. It's a failsafe feature intended to indicate that the sensor/detector needs to be replaced. Trying to repair these units likely isn't cost effective. It would be safer to replace the unit.
Propane doesn't have an intense odor, you may or may not be able to smell a leak before it accumulates to form a flammable concentration. That's why an odorant like mercaptan is added, so that low concentrations can be detected before harmful concentrations of gas can accumulate. Mercaptan has a very low odor threshold. Minute concentrations can be detected so the odor often remains as long as any concentration is present.
Many of these sensors are subject to poisoning (damage) when exposed to certain substances. Silicone is one substance know to affect some sensors. Silicone is sometimes found in polishes and waxes used on plastic/polymer surfaces.
If the alarm isn't working properly, REPLACE it. That's likely your safest and most cost effective course of action.
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Old 09-17-2021, 10:58 AM   #13
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The detectors can be replaced with a little work and replaced. The easiest solution.....pull the fuse and simply replace with a battery operated detector. Cheap....easy and works well. Good luck.
All the combination CO and propane gas detectors that I have found online require AC power and have a 9V battery backup. I have a propane gas detector, powered by the house battery and I have CO detectors that are powered by disposable batteries.

If there is a combination detector that is powered by disposable batteries, I'd like to know the brand or link.
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Old 09-17-2021, 11:03 AM   #14
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Gas detector sensor lifespan

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon in AZ View Post
Yes! Detectors have a lifespan. In normal residential service, I believe most say to replace every 10 years. But they can wear our much faster when they are exposed to temperature extremes and other harsh environmental conditions (dust, pollen, smoke...). So I'd expect less than 10 years in RV service.
While I dispute Jon's 10 year lifespan, I concur with what Jon has to say about the detector's use in an RV environment. I would add to that road vibration and more. Things you would not have in a stationary home. I can not speak for gas detectors, but I do know that you are supposed to replace smoke detectors every 5 years (per Kidde) or less. The BrinksHome.com comment about chirping also applies to smoke detectors (personal experience). Regardless of the age of your gas detector, I would definitely replace it ASAP. Potential gas leaks are nothing to guess or procrastinate about. An RV environment is more stressful and challenging than a normal stationary location in a home. This may lead to accelerated aging of the detector.

One other factor to consider is the quality of the detector itself. I know from personal experience, that RV manufacturers do not always use high quality products. They are focused on the bottom line. So in many cases, they will use the cheapest product in order meet state and federal requirements. You may want to determine the manufacturer of your gas detector and do some research directly.

I found the following quote using Google. There are other answers, but I thought this might provide some answers to your question.

The following is from Brinkshome.com

"How Often Should I Replace my Carbon Monoxide Detectors?

Typically, you should replace your detectors once every five to seven years, but there’s a little more to it than that.  Most of the time, these detectors will start emitting a chirping sound at the end of their life that’s different than the chirping sound that means “change my battery.” Thus, most of the time, you only need to replace them when you hear the chirp. Newer, digital models tend to have a digital display of some kind, allowing you to discern when they are malfunctioning.

The good news is that these things are designed to self-monitor and let you know if they detect a problem within. Just in case, you should check the battery  twice a year and test it regularly using the test/reset button. This will ensure the device is working properly when you need it most."

I suggest a Google search yourself, as I found a lot of conflicting information. Kidde is a major manufacturer of detectors. I know this since I worked for one of their competitors for many years. I would strongly suggest you follow their advice. They have a huge liability stake in their products and I seriously doubt they are going to risk law suits due to false/misleading information or negligence on their part.

At least one site stated that the life of a detector starts at the date of manufacture. I know that radioisotopes are used in smoke detectors. These isotopes have a limited life and so the lifespan of the detector is also limited. I assume similar technology is used in gas detection.

I wish you well in resolving your gas detector problem.
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Old 09-17-2021, 11:04 AM   #15
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Can anyone provide sources/names/ brands for these CO2/ propane detectors? I see them mentioned here frequently, I'd like to buy one. thanks,
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Old 09-17-2021, 11:27 AM   #16
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-Garrison makes two of our units.
--- Home unit has no expiry date only show Co listed has a test button lights for power

--- Trailers Garrison unit says gas alarm and maybe the better alarm unit lists Propane, Methane, Carbon Monoxide and has a screen giving ppm amount, will not work except 120v has no expiry date on it. Says to clean it, vacuumed regularly. Model # KN-COEG-3 tested it and it still works fine.
Screen shows ppm of gas, 4sec beep Co evacuate and 1/2 sec continuous beeps for other gasses evacuate.

--- Trailers battery and 120v unit is Kidde and again it is a gas only alarm no expiry listed but wants you to clean it. It does say to change battery's every year and only use alkaline battery's can not read model sticker.

--- This has me thinking and will get a battery powered smoke alarm soon; gas alarms do not do fire.

Hope this helps
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Old 09-17-2021, 11:30 AM   #17
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Can anyone provide sources/names/ brands for these CO2/ propane detectors? I see them mentioned here frequently, I'd like to buy one. thanks,
CO2 is carbon dioxide. You are looking for CO ( carbon monoxide ) and propane gas detectors. MTI ( Safe-T-Alert ) makes one but it's probably cheaper to get a propane detector and a separate CO detector.
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Old 09-17-2021, 11:41 AM   #18
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---- Trailers Garrison unit says gas alarm and maybe the better alarm unit lists Propane, Methane, Carbon Monoxide and has a screen giving ppm amount, will not work except 120v
So, it does nothing unless you care hooked up to shore power.
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Old 09-17-2021, 11:41 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by MJo View Post
Can anyone provide sources/names/ brands for these CO2/ propane detectors? I see them mentioned here frequently, I'd like to buy one. thanks,
--- Trailers Garrison unit says gas alarm and maybe the better alarm unit lists Propane, Methane, Carbon Monoxide and has a screen giving ppm amount, will not work except 120v has no expiry date on it. Says to clean it, vacuumed regularly. Model # KN-COEG-3 tested it today and it still works fine.
They will have a newer model by now.
Screen shows ppm of gas, 4sec beep Co evacuate and 1/2 sec continuous beeps for other gasses evacuate. The also make specialized trailer units but they may cost more. We got this one from Canadian tire in the trailer parts area.
The newer specialized units may do all of this and work 12v as well.
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Old 09-17-2021, 11:50 AM   #20
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So, it does nothing unless you care hooked up to shore power.
Yes that is why we have the kidde Gas battery unit as well. We have to consider power outages at trailer camping sites.
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