What should I do about my explosive gas detector?
March 3, 2010 5:39 AM   Subscribe

Should I get rid of my explosive gas detector?

I have a Kidde CO2/explosive gas detector plugged into the wall near the Baxi Wallhung boiler (combined heat/hot water) in my bedroom utility closet. I got the detector a few months ago and quickly learned that I can't clean, use hairspray, cook on the stove or use the oven anywhere near the detector without setting off the explosive gas alarm. The first time the detector went off, a few months ago, I called the gas company and they came to check for leaks. They didn't find any.

This morning, the detector went off while I was asleep. The display said "GAS," meaning that it was detecting explosive gas, not CO2. I didn't smell gas and didn't see any reason why the alarm should have been going off, so I just reset the alarm and went to work. The alarm stopped going off after I reset it. For those of you who have experience with these detectors, do they often go off for no apparent reason? Should I call the gas company when I get home, or just assume that it was a false alarm? Is it even worth having an explosive gas detector at all?
posted by zembla3 to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
My experience with natural gas is that dangerous levels of it are unbelievably smelly. I'd just continue using it and resetting it as necessary. Or move it a bit farther from the boiler. Or, less ideally, replacing it with a straight CO detector.
posted by paanta at 5:51 AM on March 3, 2010

I have the same detector, and it is, IMO, a piece of junk. It goes off when I use the stove or oven, use any aerosols, or even have a bunch of people over, and it's crazy loud and shrill and hard to quiet down when it does go off. I ended up disconnecting it because of the high false alarm rate and I intend to replace it with a regular CO detector, or one of those combo CO/smoke alarms. I just hope you didn't pay as much for yours as I did for mine.
posted by pocams at 6:36 AM on March 3, 2010

The propellants used in aerosol cans often are explosive gasses, like propane and butane. Using hair spray is equivalent to a fairly big gas leak that you'd want a detector to respond to quickly. So in a sense, this isn't really a false alarm.

But it's certainly annoying and not useful. Unless you can put a detector (any detector) a fairly long way away from where such products get used, I'm having a hard time imagining how any similar detector could respond properly to a small gas leak from an appliance but ignore the hairspray propellant.
posted by FishBike at 6:47 AM on March 3, 2010

I used to have one of those (maybe the same model) and got rid of it as soon as I could. I had the same problems as you, and IIRC their questions line said that it can be triggered by cleaning chemicals and a bunch of other things. Mine seemed to go off whenever one of the other apartments in my building had its carpet cleaned.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 8:02 AM on March 3, 2010

I would get rid of it. They seem to be more of a nuisance than anything worthwhile.

There is a movement around to have these gas detectors installed on gas appliances, and some do indeed come with them, that will shut down the appliance if the detector goes off. Rather quickly though, consumers find out the same thing you have, that they are annoying and rarely work as intended. They generally have a plumber come out and remove them.

For me, I'd just use a CO detector. If you have an actual gas leak you will smell it. Propane and natural gas are odorized to be very offensive smelling at 1/10 the lower explosive limit. This means that you will be able to smell even minute leaks.

FYI I am a forensic investigator on gas/propane explosions and CO poisonings.
posted by sanka at 8:02 AM on March 3, 2010 [4 favorites]

We had one for about ten days and it would go off (down the hall!) when we even discussed what to have for dinner. My 2-y.o. now is afraid of anything that beeps. Grrr.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:30 AM on March 3, 2010

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