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  • Writer's pictureRobin Larkin

Where Should I Place Carbon Monoxide Detectors?

First off, is it a detector or an alarm? It seems like everywhere refers to them differently - some places say alarm, some say detector. They are both technically correct - it will detect the carbon monoxide and alarm when levels get too high. These carbon monoxide alarms can save your life, but only if you place them in the correct locations in your home and regularly ensure they are operational.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a leading cause of unintentional poisoning deaths in Canada and North America. CO is a colourless, odourless, toxic gas that can cause immediate harm if unnoticed, including coma and death. (Source)

Carbon monoxide poisoning can take effect at the low concentration level of 70 parts per million. Even a small leak in your flue pipe is dangerous, especially during the winter, when your furnace is constantly on and your windows are sealed to keep heat in. This lack of ventilation can be disastrous.

A properly functioning CO detector warns you of a rise in carbon monoxide concentrations around you, keeping you safe from any CO-related emergencies. However, to measure CO concentrations accurately, you must place the detectors in appropriate locations around your house. An alarm should be installed near every bedroom.

Choosing A Carbon Monoxide Detector

As of 2020, CO alarms are legally required in Alberta, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Quebec and Yukon.

Carbon monoxide can only be detected by a carbon monoxide detector, or a combination smoke & CO detector. When shopping for a CO detector, look for products that are certified for use in Canada. Canadian certification marks mean the equipment has been tested by laboratory professionals and meet the requirements of Canadian safety standards. Be sure your carbon monoxide alarm has been certified to the Canadian Standard Association (CSA) CAN/CGA 6.19 standard or the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) 2034 standard.

Here are some common Canadian certification marks you may find:

Ideal Locations for Carbon Monoxide Detectors

To ensure that your CO detectors accurately measure carbon monoxide levels in your house, always follow the manufacturer's installation instructions. You may also consider these additional tips:

  • Since CO gas is lighter than air and is found with rising, warm air, place your CO detectors around five feet off the floor.

  • If you have pets, place your CO detector where they can’t reach it. Pets could break the sensor in the detector without your noticing.

  • There may be varying levels of CO on different floors of a multi-story house. To keep every area of your home protected, install at least one CO detector on every floor of your home.

  • Install CO detectors outside bedrooms so that you wake immediately if the detector sounds the alarm during the night.

  • Since CO detectors differ because of variations in manufacturing specifications, follow your CO detector manufacturer’s recommendations. Thoroughly read your CO detector’s manual and contact the manufacturer if you have any questions.

  • Adjust the alarms on your CO detectors to ensure that they’re loud enough for you to hear everywhere in the house.

Avoid Placing Carbon Monoxide Detectors in these Areas

To avoid false alarms and to ensure that your CO detectors are accurately measuring CO levels in your home, avoid placing them in the following locations:

  • Anywhere that receives direct sunlight. High temperatures trigger detectors, leading to false alarms.

  • Anywhere the temperature may drop below 4°C (40°F) or exceed 37°C (100°).

  • Within 1.5m (5 feet) of fuel-burning appliances, such as furnaces fireplaces. Areas near these appliances will always have a higher level of CO.

  • Close to air-blowing appliances or sources, such as fans, open windows and vents. Placing a CO detector in these locations will prevent it from recognizing unsafe CO concentrations due to the inaccuracies caused by blowing air.

  • In or near humid locations, such as bathrooms. Humid air is dense and leads to inaccurate CO detection.

  • In areas where bleach and other household chemicals are stored. The fumes from volatile chemical products can trigger the CO detector’s alarm.

  • On the ceiling. While CO is slightly lighter than air, both gases have similar weights, so CO won’t rise to the height of your ceiling to trigger the alarm.

  • Anywhere it may be blocked by furniture or curtains.

How to Maintain Your Carbon Monoxide Detector

Installation isn't the end of it. To ensure that your CO detector is running properly, follow these reminders:

  • Test your detectors each month. CO detectors will have a TEST button; pressing it will sound an alarm or flash a light, indicating that your detector is working correctly.

  • Clean the detector regularly. Dirt, dust and similar particles will build up and can decrease the detector’s performance. Use a cloth—and a vacuum with a brush attachment, if needed—to keep the CO detector clean.

  • Replace the batteries regularly if it is battery operated. CO detectors begin to chirp to alert you that the batteries need replacing. It is recommended to change your CO detector batteries at least every year, or when the clocks change.


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