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Here are the frequently asked questions about Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Carbon Monoxide AlarmWhat is carbon monoxide?
Why is carbon monoxide harmful?
Where does carbon monoxide in the home come from?
What is a carbon monoxide alarm?
Are carbon monoxide alarms required in existing, owner-occupied single family homes and duplexes?
What are landlord/tenant responsibilities?
Where in the home should carbon monoxide alarms be installed?
Do current rules require carbon monoxide alarms on all levels of the home?
What are acceptable power sources for CO alarms?
What are the maintenance requirements for carbon monoxide alarms?
What should people do when the carbon monoxide alarm sounds?

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an invisible, odorless and colorless gas.  It is created when fuels (such as gasoline, wood, charcoal, and petroleum products) burn incompletely.

Why is carbon monoxide harmful?

Carbon monoxide displaces oxygen in the blood and deprives the heart, brain, and other vital organs of oxygen.  Carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal.  Symptoms include headache, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, bright red skin, mental confusion, loss of muscular coordination and loss of consciousness.

Where does carbon monoxide in the home come from?

Carbon monoxide sources include: Heaters, fireplaces, furnaces, appliances, and cooking sources that use coal, wood, petroleum products, and other fuels.  Petroleum products include, but are not limited to, kerosene, natural gas, and propane. Equipment powered by internal combustion engines, such as cars, portable generators, lawn mowers, and power washers. Attached garages with doors, ductwork, or ventilation shafts that are connected directly to a living space are also considered “carbon monoxide sources”.

What is a carbon monoxide alarm?

A device that detects carbon monoxide and produces a distinct audible alarm when CO is detected. It can operate either as a distinct unit, as two or more single station units wired to operate in conjunction with each other, or as part of an alarm system that contains CO detectors.

Are carbon monoxide alarms required in existing, owner-occupied single family homes and duplexes?

No, they are not required in these homes by Oregonrules. However, it is a recommended best practice to have the alarms installed in any home that has a CO source.

What are landlord/tenant responsibilities?

In rental dwellings in which CO alarms are required, the landlord must ensure that properly functioning CO alarms are installed, provide working batteries at time of move-in, and provide the new tenant with alarm testing instructions.  A tenant must test alarm at least every six months and replace batteries as needed and notify landlord in writing of any operating deficiencies.

Where in the home should carbon monoxide alarms be installed?

A carbon monoxide alarm should be installed on each level of the home that has bedrooms or sleeping areas.  They should also be in each bedroom or within 15 feet outside of each bedroom door. In multi-family buildings, an alarm is required in any enclosed common area that is connected by a door, ductwork, or ventilation shaft to a CO source.  The placement of the alarm should be in a location specified in the manufacturer’s instructions.  Depending on the model, this may be the wall, ceiling, or other location such as a plug-in receptacle.  You need to avoid locations that are in turbulent air such as near ceiling fans, heat vents, air conditioners, or open windows.  You should also avoid kitchens, garages, and furnace rooms, as installation in these areas could cause nuisance alarms.  Alarms should be placed more than five feet from fuel fired appliances.  Also avoid locations that are dusty, dirty or greasy; these substances can contaminate or coat the alarm’s sensor, causing the unit to malfunction.

Do current rules require carbon monoxide alarms on all levels of the home?

No, the law requires an alarm on each level of the home that has bedrooms.  However, it is a recommended best practice to have alarms on each level of the home.

What are acceptable power sources for CO alarms?

CO alarms can be battery operated, hard-wired with a battery back up, or plug-in with a battery back-up.

What are the maintenance requirements for carbon monoxide alarms?

Carbon monoxide alarms must be maintained and tested according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This usually includes: periodic (weekly) testing, vacuum to keep alarm free of dust and debris and replacing batteries as needed. Most CO alarms have a 5 year life span.

What should people do when the carbon monoxide alarm sounds? 

When the alarm sounds, silence the alarm. Move everyone outside to fresh air and call for help from an outside location. If anyone is experiencing symptoms of CO poisoning, call 9-1-1. If no one has symptoms, ventilate building and contact a qualified service technician. Have all home equipment powered by fuels such as gas, wood, or petroleum products inspected by a qualified technician. Have fuel-burning heating equipment and chimneys inspected by a professional every year before cold weather sets in.

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