Carbon Monoxide Alarm Information

New Carbon Monoxide Alarm Requirements

California's Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act of 2010 requires that all residential property be equipped with a California State Fire Marshal (CSFM) approved carbon monoxide detector when the property has a fossil fuel burning heater or appliance, fireplace, or an attached garage, as follows:

  • All single-family homes (owner or tenant occupied) must be equipped with a detector on or before July 1, 2011.
  • All other residential units (duplex/apartment/condominium complex) must be equipped with a detector on or before January 1, 2013.

Information specific to the Act is found in the California Health and Safety Code Sections 13260 thru 13263.

Information specific to property owners and property management responsibility and disclosure requirements are found in California Health and Safety Code sections 17926, 17926.1, and 17926.2.

What is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a deadly, colorless, odorless, poisonous gas. It is produced by the incomplete burning of various fuels, including coal, wood, charcoal, oil, kerosene, propane, and natural gas. Products and equipment powered by internal combustion engines such as portable generators, cars, lawn mowers, and power washers also produce CO.

At lower levels of exposure, CO causes mild effects that are often mistaken for the flu. These symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Disorientation
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue

At moderate concentrations, angina, impaired vision, and reduced brain function may result. At higher concentrations, CO exposure can be fatal.

The effects of CO exposure can vary greatly from person to person depending on age, overall health and the concentration and length of exposure.

Where Should I Place Carbon Monoxide Alarms?

Follow manufacturers instructions.

The CSFM has published a list of approved CO alarm products for use in homes and apartments. View the most current listing (PDF).

What Do I Do If The Alarm Sounds?

Don't ignore the alarm! It is intended to go off before you are experiencing symptoms:

  • GET FRESH AIR IMMEDIATELY! Open doors and windows, turn off combustion appliances, and leave the house!
  • If anyone is experiencing symptoms of CO exposure, DIAL 911 OR GO TO AN EMERGENCY ROOM! Tell the physician you suspect CO poisoning. If CO poisoning has occurred, it can often be diagnosed by a blood test done soon after exposure.
  • Be prepared to answer the following questions for the doctor:

* Do your symptoms occur only in the house? Do they disappear or decrease when you leave home and reappear when you return?

* Is anyone else in your household complaining of similar symptoms? Did everyone's symptoms appear about the same time?

* Are you using any fuel-burning appliances in the home?

* Has anyone inspected your appliances lately? Are you certain they are working properly?

No matter what, you should not go back in until the home has been ventilated, you have identified and remedied the source of the CO leak, and have appliances or chimneys checked by a professional as soon as possible.

How Can I Reduce Exposure To Carbon Monoxide?

It is most important to be sure combustion equipment is maintained and properly adjusted. Vehicular use should be carefully managed adjacent to buildings and in vocational programs. Additional ventilation can be used as a temporary measure when high levels of CO are expected for short periods of time.

  • Keep gas appliances properly adjusted.
  • 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 flues 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 (furnaces, flues, and chimneys) annually. Repair any leaks promptly.
  • Do not idle the car inside garage.
  • Never use a generator inside homes, garages, crawlspaces, sheds, or similar areas. Deadly levels of carbon monoxide can quickly build up in these areas and can linger for hours, even after the generator has shut off.

Additional Information

Additional information on CO poisoning prevention can be found at the Consumer Products Safety Commission and Environmental Protection Agency websites

(Information provided courtesy of the Consumer Products Safety Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency)