Information Requested

Almost half the participants said that as homeowners they would like information about the risk of CO and the health impacts of exposure, especially “that it kills.” About a quarter of the participants wanted to know what steps they should take if they detected CO in the home. Some people thought that information concerning CO detectors, such as consumer reports, would be useful. People said that this information could be best communicated through flyers and pamphlets in the gas bill, or through media such as newspapers, radio, and television.

Comparison of Experts and Homeowner Knowledge

Table 12.1.

Comparison of Seniors and New Homeowners

  • • Seniors more often had higher expectations for their equipment performance.
  • • When asked whether or not there ought to be regulation enforcing homeowners to service and maintain their fuel-burning equipment, seniors more often answered “no.”

Table 12.1 Comparison of expert model and homeowners’ mental models of reducing CO risk in the home




CO description

A deadly gas; lighter than air; odorless, colorless, tasteless

For most interviewees CO was odorless, a silent killer, deadly. A few thought that CO was heavy. A couple thought it could explode


Annual maintenance of fuel-burning equipment and appliances. Full service and check

It was important; two-thirds said annual maintenance for the furnace; others said every 2-3 years for the furnace. Check and clean was most frequent description of maintenance


Damaged, blocked, weather, age of equipment, time of year, house characteristics, and maintenance can all influence the performance

Many recognized that damaged or malfunctioning equipment could affect the performance


Ventilation affects levels in the home; house characteristics will affect ventilation

Just over two-thirds said ventilation affects levels of CO in the home; some said house characteristics affect levels

Health impacts

Flu-like symptoms— headaches, tiredness, nausea, brain damage, death. Only the doctor mentioned cardiac impacts

Over half said fatigue and nausea; over a third said overall health impact was death. They did not mention seeking medical attention


CO detectors; expert assessment; health impacts

Three-quarters said CO detectors; about two-thirds said health impacts. Many have at least one detector


Get out, call 911, seek medical attention

Over half said get out; about 45 % said open windows and doors; about a quarter said call the gas company; less than a quarter said call the fire department. None mentioned seek medical attention

  • • New homeowners more often said that they would call the fire department if they detected CO in the home. Seniors more often said that they would open doors and windows. Seniors would more often call 911.
  • • New homeowners more often mentioned brain damage as an overall health impact of CO exposure.
  • • Seniors more often said that the elderly were more at risk from inhaling CO.
  • • Seniors more often said that they would not use the Internet as a source of information .

Comparison of Women and Men

Women more often raised health issues when describing the characteristics of CO.

  • • Women more often recognized the value of maintaining and servicing fuelburning equipment.
  • • Women more often mentioned the need to annually service the furnace. Men more often said that the furnace needed maintenance every 2-3 years.
  • • Men more often had high expectations regarding equipment performance.
  • • When asked whether or not there ought to be regulation enforcing homeowners to service and maintain their fuel-burning equipment, men more often answered “no.”

Mental Models Analysis

Once coding and analysis were completed it was possible to perform a mental models analysis—a comprehensive assessment of what the interviewed homeowners knew that was correct, what they didn’t know or misunderstood that was consequential, what they wanted to know, who they trusted and what communications processes they preferred (see Table 12.2).

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