Colo. carbon monoxide law affects contractors

"The Lofgren and Johnson Families Carbon Monoxide Safety Act" has requirements that affect pretty much everyone in Colorado as it pertains to the use and placement of carbon monoxide detectors.

The tragic deaths of a family of four in Aspen, Colo., and a young woman in Denver in completely separate incidents during the winter of 2008 has led to the activation of a law titled, "The Lofgren and Johnson Families Carbon Monoxide Safety Act." The act was physically signed by then Colorado Governor Bill Ritter in February of 2009 and became active July 1, 2009.

It is unfortunate that a severe loss of life was necessary to cause the legislators to create this law, but it is a step in the right direction. Personally, I would have rather seen a more significant bill that also required the installing contractors to document the appliance carbon monoxide conditions at the time the equipment was started, and I am working on legislation to that end. In any case, the Lofgren and Johnson bill has requirements that affect pretty much everyone in Colorado as it pertains to the use and placement of carbon monoxide detectors.

The applicable sections of the law read as follows:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the seller of each existing single-family dwelling offered for sale or transfer on or after July 1, 2009, that has a fuel-fired heater or appliance, a fireplace, or an attached garage shall assure that an operational carbon monoxide alarm is installed within fifteen feet of the entrance to each room lawfully used for sleeping purposes or in a location as specified in any building code adopted by the state or any local government entity.

This insures that each and every dwelling that is sold will be equipped with a working CO detector. Applicable sections of the law read as follows:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, every single-family dwelling that includes either fuel-fired appliances or an attached garage where, on or after July 1, 2009, interior alterations, repairs, fuel-fired appliance replacements, or additions, any of which require a building permit, occurs or where one or more rooms lawfully used for sleeping purposes are added shall have an operational carbon monoxide alarm installed within fifteen feet of the entrance to each room lawfully used for sleeping purposes or in a location as specified in any building code adopted by the state or any local government entity.

This is the section of the law that applies to and affects heating contractors in Colorado. Essentially, it puts the responsibility of making sure a working CO detector is within 15 feet of the entrance to sleeping areas. This will require the heating contractors to pay particular attention to the locations of existing CO detectors, and locations of individual sleeping areas. Heating contractors should not be confused with smoke detectors, which in most cases are different than CO detectors. Some detectors are dual function, but it is on the heating contractors to verify that there is a working CO detector within 15 feet of all legal sleeping rooms (bedrooms).

This provision of the law is being enforced by the local Authority Having Jurisdicition, which can be state, county, city or private code enforcement officials.

My recommendation would be for the affected contractors to get a copy of the actual law, and distribute it among the affected employees within their company, including installers, estimators, designers and field service employees. The law can be reviewed and printed by going to: http://www.state.co.us/gov_dir/leg_dir/olls/sl2009a/sl_51.htm.

I would also suggest that any wholesalers who happen to read this article align themselves with a competent, reliable U.L. compliant carbon monoxide detector manufacturer, so that they can stock and sell carbon monoxide detectors to their contractor clientele.

Having a CO detector installed is the contractor's responsibility. Maintaining the CO detector is the responsibility of the person living within the dwelling. A recommended practice is to replace the detectors batteries during the change to Daylight Savings time in the spring of the year. I would think that a sharp business owner would seize upon this opportunity to make contact with their customers, and tie the battery replacement with the recommended annual gas appliance service requirements, and offer free battery replacement and CO detector testing as a part of their service. Many of these older CO detectors have a finite life expectancy and need to be replaced on a regular basis to insure proper operation.

The tragic deaths of the Lofgren family in Aspen were related to improperly installed glued joints on the venting system of the modulating/condensing boiler. Two code officials were originally implicated in the deficiencies that led to the deaths of this family. This should serve as notice to building inspectors that they are no longer exempt from prosecution, or have immunity from prosecution due to them not correctly doing their job.

We as contractors have a responsibility to our customers to perform due diligence during the installation, and to properly commission the appliance when it is first turned on.

Tune in next month as we look at what is necessary to set these highly technical pieces of equipment up to insure safe and proper operation. Until then, happy compliant hydronicing.

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