Honda is adding a new sensor to its portable gas generators, a carbon monoxide (CO) detector aiming to warn about build-up of the potentially deadly gas. The Honda Power Equipment CO-MINDER system is designed to track levels of carbon monoxide – which is odorless and tasteless – and can shut the generator down in emergency situations.
Portable generators can be mighty useful things to have on hand, particularly if you’re living in an area where power outages are likely. They’re also popular among campers and on work sites, but often there’s insufficient consideration given to where the generator is positioned during use, and how it’s set up to vent its exhaust gases.
Carbon monoxide is a risk that many don’t consider, especially in the sort of high-stress power outage situation that might prompt the use of a portable generator. More than 400 people in the US die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), while more than 4,000 are hospitalized and over 20,000 end up in the emergency room.
Part of the challenge for preventing CO poisoning is the fact that the gas itself is so hard to identify. Odorless and colorless, contrary to popular myth it’s also slightly lighter than air and so will diffuse evenly through a room, rather than sinking to low levels. Symptoms of CO poisoning are flu-like, including headache, dizziness, weakness, an upset stomach or vomiting, chest pain, and confusion.
Honda’s system uses a CO sensor, designed to trigger if it records a level at or exceeding 800 parts per million (ppm) at a given time, or an average of 400 ppm for 10 minutes. Should those levels be reached, the generator is automatically shut down. A light on the control panel indicates a CO-related issue was identified.
At the same time, it’s also designed to avoid the sort of false positives that might sap owner confidence and cause them to overlook the alerts. They’re both moisture and dust-resistant, and Honda says CO-MINDER sensors should keep working even if accidentally blocked. They should also be impervious to gusts of wind blowing back small amounts of CO, which could trigger slower-reacting sensors. A warning will alert the owner if the sensor itself needs replacing.
Initially, Honda will be fitting CO-MINDER as standard on its EU1000i, EU3000iS, EG4000, and EB10000 portable generators from this month. By the end of 2020, though, all models from the company will have the feature.