Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Carbon monoxide (CO) 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, heating and cooking equipment that burn fuel are possible sources of CO. Vehicles or generators running in an attached garage also can produce dangerous levels of CO.

You can protect yourself again CO poisoning by properly installing, using, venting, and maintaining your heating and cooking equipment; by installing CO alarms inside your home; and by being cautious with vehicles or generators in attached garages.

How to protect yourself:
  • Have at least 1 audible carbon monoxide alarm installed in your home to provide early warning of accumulating CO. However, a CO alarm is no substitute for safe practices.
  • The best defenses against CO poisoning are safe use of vehicles (particularly in attached garages) and proper installation, use, venting and maintenance of household cooking and heating equipment.
  • Choose an alarm that has Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. listed. Look for the UL logo on the package.
  • Have a qualified appliance technician check all fuel-burning appliances, furnaces, venting and chimney system at least once a year or as recommended by the manufacturer.
How Carbon Monoxide Alarms Work
Carbon monoxide alarms sound based on the exposure to CO over time. They are designed to sound an alarm before the average, healthy adult would experience symptoms. Remember, it is the exposure to carbon monoxide over time that poses a threat.

Carbon monoxide alarms are not substitutes for smoke alarms. Smoke alarms give earlier warning of a fire, providing more time to escape. Know the difference between the sound of the smoke alarm and the sound of the CO alarm!

In the Event of an Alarm
What to do if the carbon monoxide alarm goes off:
  • Do not panic!
  • Have everyone move to an area with fresh (outside) air. Open windows to ventilate.
  • Call 911.
  • Do not re-enter your home until the emergency responder has arrived, your home is aired out, and your carbon monoxide alarm returns to normal operation.
  • Call a qualified technician to inspect all equipment.
For more information on carbon monoxide safety, please read our CO safety brochure (PDF).