If your smoke or carbon monoxide alarm becomes contaminated by excessive dirt, dust or grime, and cannot be cleaned, you should replace the detector immediately. You may have placed your smoke and CO alarms in an area prone to false alarms, so relocate the detector if it sounds frequent unwanted alarms.
Unlike smoke alarms where dust, cooking fumes etc. can cause false alarms the same problem does not exist with CO alarms. That is because CO alarms work very differently from smoke alarms.
Can a carbon monoxide detector go off for no reason? In most cases, no. There is typically a reason why the CO alarm is sounding, whether it detects carbon monoxide in the air or is low on battery.
CO alarms become erratic once expired. This is the most common reason for false alarms. Excessive moisture from a bathroom may set off your CO alarm. CO alarms should not be installed in areas with excessive steam.
If the carbon monoxide concentration in the air is much higher, signs of poisoning may occur within 1-2 hours. A very high carbon monoxide concentration can even kill an exposed individual within 5 minutes.
There are more than 38 million residential carbon monoxide detectors installed in the United States. We tested 30 detectors in use and found that more than half failed to function properly, alarming too early or too late.
A carbon monoxide detector is a must for any home and just as important as a smoke detector. CO detectors should be placed near all bedrooms; they're the only way you will know if carbon monoxide is affecting the air quality in your home, and can help prevent serious illness and even death.
This battery characteristic can cause a smoke alarm to enter the low battery chirp mode when air temperatures drop. Most homes are the coolest between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. That's why the alarm may sound a low-battery chirp in the middle of the night, and then stop when the home warms up a few degrees.
Call 911 immediately and report that the alarm has gone off. Do not assume it is safe to reenter the home when the alarm stops. When you open windows and doors, it helps diminish the amount of carbon monoxide in the air, but the source may still be producing the gas.
The CO alarm sounds if your sensor detects a buildup of carbon monoxide in your home—usually before you start sensing symptoms. With a low CO level (50 ppm), it may take up to eight hours for the alarm to go off. Higher carbon monoxide levels (over 150 ppm) can trigger an alarm within minutes.
Carbon Monoxide Sources in the Home
Water heaters. Furnaces or boilers. Fireplaces, both gas and wood burning. Gas stoves and ovens.
Opening a window will slow carbon monoxide poisoning, but it likely won't stop it. There simply isn't enough airflow through most windows to get rid of the poisonous gas, and it could take between four and eight hours for the CO to dissipate entirely.
The most common source of CO poisoning is unvented space heaters in the home. An unvented space heater uses combustible fuel and indoor air for the heating process. It vents the gases it makes into the room, instead of outdoors.
Self Checks/At-Home Testing
There isn't a self-diagnosis option for carbon monoxide poisoning, but anyone with confusion or a loss of consciousness should have 911 called for them.
Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning can become deadly in a matter of minutes. If you suspect CO poisoning, leave your home or building immediately and call 911 or go to the emergency room. If treated quickly, the effects of CO poisoning can be reversed.
Signs of a carbon monoxide leak in your house or home
Sooty or brownish-yellow stains around the leaking appliance. Stale, stuffy, or smelly air, like the smell of something burning or overheating. Soot, smoke, fumes, or back-draft in the house from a chimney, fireplace, or other fuel burning equipment.
A carbon monoxide alarm should be installed on every floor of a home, including the basement and near sleeping areas. It should also be installed near or over an attached garage at least 5 feet off the floor or on the ceiling.
They are NOT required to warn of low-levels of CO. The UL standard requires detectors to alarm within 90 minutes when exposed to 100 ppm; 35 minutes when exposed to 200 ppm and 15 minutes when exposed to 400 ppm. Some detectors are more sensitive and will, when exposed for many hours, detect or alarm at lower levels.
Average carbon monoxide levels in homes range from 0.5 parts per million (ppm) to 30 ppm or higher, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A low-level detector from the National Safety Institute can detect levels as low as 5 ppm.
There's a myth that carbon monoxide alarms should be installed lower on the wall because carbon monoxide is heavier than air. In fact, carbon monoxide is slightly lighter than air and diffuses evenly throughout the room.
On many carbon monoxide alarms, the red light flashes to show the CO alarm is properly receiving battery power. For these alarms, when you do not see the red light flashing, change the batteries in the alarm immediately.
CO alarm life span
All CO alarms produced after August 1, 2009, have an end-of-life warning notification that alerts the resident that the alarm should be replaced. The CO alarm will beep every 30 seconds or display ERR or END. If a CO alarm is at its end-of-life, replacing the battery will not stop the beep.