Carbon Monoxide Alarms (Detectors)

CO alarms are very reliable and provide excellent protection from CO. The installation of CO alarm gives a warning to people in a building of unhealthy or dangerous levels of CO before the symptoms of CO poisoning occur.

A CO alarm should be centrally located outside of each sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms.

Each CO alarm should be located on the wall, ceiling, or other location as specified in the manufacturer’s installation instructions that accompany the unit.

A CO detector is not designed to detect smoke or heat.

A CO detector is not a substitute for a properly installed smoke detector. Combination smoke detector and CO detectors are available and should also be installed in accordance with the manufacturers instructions.

It is very important to be aware of the early signs of CO poisoning. Exposure to CO can mimic flu systems – headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue. Higher levels of exposure will result in disorientation and drowsiness, leading to unconsciousness and death. Often the symptoms will be less when the person exposed to carbon monoxide leaves the building, only to have the symptoms reoccur when the person re-enters the building.

Combination Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

The law and the codes allow the use of photoelectric and carbon monoxide combination alarms.

Detectors that do not work cannot provide early warning and save you from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning. Keep alarms clean, and test them weekly. Replace detectors immediately if they are not working properly.

How long will my CO alarm last?

Like most electrical devices, CO alarms wear out. The life span for a CO Alarm is about five (5) years, after which it should be replaced.

You may want to write the purchase date with a marker on the back of your unit. That way, you’ll know when to replace it. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for replacement.

Carbon Monoxide Dangers

The dangers of carbon monoxide exposure depend on a number of variables, such as the occupant’s health, activity level, time of exposure, and initial carboxyhemoglobin (COHb) level. Experience has shown that hazardous concentrations of carbon monoxide can accumulate in a residence, generally from improperly operating heating appliances, insufficient make- up air into the residence or space, or blocked chimneys or vents. However, there are many other potential sources of carbon monoxide within a home, including the following:

  1. Malfunctioning fossil fuel appliances
  2. Wood stoves
  3. Fireplaces
  4. Idling automobiles in attached garages
  5. Portable equipment such as gasoline-powered lawn and garden equipment
  6. Barbecues

Carbon monoxide is odorless, tasteless, and colorless; therefore, its presence is undetectable by smell, taste, or sight. Carbon monoxide alarms meeting the requirements of ANSI/UL 2034, and installed in accordance with the standards provide a significant level of protection against fatal carbon monoxide exposure.

Although carbon monoxide warning equipment might respond to gases produced by unwanted fires, CO alarms are not substitutes for smoke alarms and vice versa. Know the difference between the sound of smoke alarms and the sound of CO alarms.

The information above is sourced from materials written by the Vermont Department of Public Safety Division of Fire Safety. For more detailed information please read, download or print the documents below.

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Carbon Monoxide Alarms

An information sheet written by the Vermont Department of Public Safety Division of Fire Safety.
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Carbon Monoxide Alarms Code Matrix

A building code matrix for carbon conoxide alarm requirements in new and existing structures. Written by the Vermont Department of Public Safety Division of Fire Safety.
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