Carbon monoxide (CO) is a silent killer. Colourless, odourless and tasteless, it can invade your home without warning. As you breathe it in, the CO displaces the oxygen you need to survive. Even in small quantities CO can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, irregular breathing, sleepiness, and confusion. In larger concentrations it leads to unconsciousness and death.
Possible sources of CO in your home include:
A properly installed CO detector can alert you to the presence of carbon monoxide. If the alarm sounds, get out of the home immediately! Call the fire department from another location and ask them to check your home for the presence of carbon monoxide.
- A defective chimney
- Improperly installed gas appliances (e.g. stove, cook top, or clothes dryer)
- An idling car in an attached garage
- Barbecue used in an enclosed area
- Gas or wood-burning fireplace
- Corroded or disconnected vent pipes
- Blocked vents
- Cracked heat exchanger
- Portable heaters (e.g. heaters fueled by gas, propane or kerosene)
Choosing a CO detector
- Look for the CSA mark. This shows that the unit complies with recognized safety standards.
- Know the requirements for your community. In certain regions, carbon monoxide detectors are mandatory for some buildings. Contact your local municipal office or fire department for details.
- Choose a detector that makes a clear, loud noise when it detects CO gas. That annoying noise could save a life.
- Choose a suitable power source: battery, plug-in, or hardwired. Some plug-in or hardwired models have a battery backup so that the alarm will sound even if the electrical power is shut off.
- If you have only one CO detector, install it at knee height near the sleeping area. It is a good idea to have a second detector near your furnace or heat source. If your home has more than one level, consider installing a detector on each level.
- Keep household chemicals – such as butane, nail polish remover, rubbing alcohol and propane – away from your CO detector. Over time, these could affect the sensing device, which could lead to false alarms.
- Test the unit at least once a month.
- Change the batteries at least twice a year – for example, when you change your clocks if you live in a zone that has Daylight Savings Time. Be sure to use the correct type of batteries.
- See the manufacturer's instructions for detailed operating instructions.