Carbon Monoxide Alarms


What You Need to Know about Carbon Monoxide  

Often called the silent killer, carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless, colorless gas created when fuels (such as gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil, and methane) burn incompletely. In the home, it is formed from incomplete combustion from any flame-fueled (i.e., not electric) device, including ranges, ovens, clothes dryers, furnaces, fireplaces, grills, space heaters, vehicles, and water heaters. Furnaces and water heaters may be sources of carbon monoxide, but if they are vented properly the carbon monoxide will escape to the outside. Open flames, such as from ovens and ranges, are the most common source of carbon monoxide. Vehicles are the most common cause of carbon monoxide poisoning. 

CO Poisoning Symptoms 

Know the symptoms of CO poisoning. At moderate levels, you or your family can get severe headaches, become dizzy, mentally confused, nauseated, or faint. You can even die if these levels persist for a long time. Low levels can cause shortness of breath, mild nausea, and mild headaches, and may have longer-term effects on your health. Since many of these symptoms are similar to those of the flu, food poisoning, or other illnesses you may not think that CO poisoning could be the cause. 

Steps to Reduce Exposure to Carbon Monoxide 

  • Install a Carbon Monoxide Detector. 

  • Keep gas appliances properly adjusted. Do not use your gas appliance as a heater. 

  • Consider purchasing a vented space heater when replacing an unvented one. 

  • Use proper fuel in kerosene space heaters. 

  • Install and use an exhaust fan vented to outdoors over gas stoves. 

  • Open fuels when fireplaces are in use. 

  • Choose properly sized wood stoves that are certified to meet EPA emission standards. Make certain that doors on all wood stoves fit tightly. 

  • Have a trained professional inspect, clean and tune-up central heating system (finances, flues, and chimney(s) annually. Repair any leaks promptly. 

  • Do not idle the car inside garage. 

  • A generator should be used in a well-ventilated location outdoors away from windows, doors and vent openings. 

If the CO Detector Alarm Goes Off: 

  • Make sure it is your CO detector and not your smoke detector. 

  • Check to see if any member of the household is experiencing symptoms of poisoning. 

  • If they are, get them out of the house immediately and seek medical attention. Tell the doctor that you suspect CO poisoning. 

  • If no one is feeling symptoms, ventilate the home with fresh air; turn off all potential sources of CO – your oil or gas furnace, gas water heater, gas range and oven, gas dryer, gas or kerosene space heater and any vehicle or small engine. 

  • Have a qualified technician inspect your fuel-burning appliances and chimneys to make sure they are operating correctly and that there is nothing blocking the fumes from being vented out of the house. 

Placement of Carbon Monoxide Detectors 

CO alarms should be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home and in other locations where required by applicable laws, codes or standards.  When you buy your CO detector, look for the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) certification on any detector you purchase. 

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placement and mounting height.  A CO alarm should not be placed within fifteen feet of heating or cooking appliances or in or near very humid areas such as bathrooms.  When you buy your CO detector, look for the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) certification on any detector you purchase. 

For more information on Carbon Monoxide, you can go to these web sites: