What is carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless and odourless gas. Because you can't see, taste or smell it, it can affect you or your family before you even know it's there. CO is harmful because it will rapidly accumulate in the blood, depleting the ability of blood to carry oxygen.
Where does carbon monoxide come from?
Carbon monoxide is a by-product of the combustion of fossil fuels. Most fuel-burning equipment (natural gas, propane and oil), if properly installed and maintained, produces little CO. The by-products of combustion are usually safely vented to the outside. However, if anything disrupts the venting process (such as a bird's nest in the chimney) or results in a shortage of oxygen to the burner, CO production can quickly rise to dangerous levels. CO produced by gasoline engines or BBQs in a poorly ventilated space such as a shed or garage can enter a home through connecting walls or doorways.
Where do I put a CO detector?
Most manufacturers specify where you should locate the CO detector. In general, CO detectors are to be installed outside of bedrooms.
To avoid both damage to the unit and to reduce false alarms, it is NOT recommended to install CO detectors:
- within 2 metres (6 ft.) of heating and cooking appliances
- near forced- or unforced-air ventilation openings
- within 2 metres (6 ft.) of corners or areas where natural air circulation is low
- where they can be damaged, such as an outlet in a high traffic area
What features should I look for when purchasing a CO detector?
Most CO detectors are designed to give an alarm when CO levels reach a high level in a short time. Here are some features to consider when purchasing a CO detector:
- Look for a detector that is listed with the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). The logos of the testing agency will be on the product.
- Battery-operated units allow detector placement in the most convenient location; however, any battery-operated device will require battery replacement. Batteries should be replaced at least once a year.
- Do not connect plug-in units to an electrical outlet that is controlled by a wall switch.
- Replace CO detectors at least every five years, unless the manufacturer specifies ashorter or longer life.
How can I eliminate sources of CO in my home?
The most important step you can take to eliminate the possibility of CO poisoning is to ensure that CO never has an opportunity to enter your home. Review this list to minimize the risk of CO in your home:
- Have a qualified technician inspect and clean fuel-burning appliances yearly, before the cold weather sets in, to ensure they are in good working order.
- Have a qualified technician inspect chimneys and vents yearly for cracks, blockages (e.g., bird's nests, twigs, old mortar), corrosion or holes.
- Check fireplaces for closed or blocked flues.
- Check with a qualified technician before enclosing heating and hot water equipment in a smaller room, to ensure there is adequate air for proper combustion.
- If you have a powerful kitchen exhaust fan or downdraft cook top, have a qualified technician check that its operation does not pull fumes back down the chimney.
- Never start a vehicle in a closed garage; open the garage doors first. Pull the car out mmediately onto the driveway, and then close the garage door to prevent exhaust fumes from being drawn into the house.
- Do not use a remote automobile starter when the car is in the garage, even if the garage doors are open.
- Never operate propane, natural gas or charcoal barbecue grills indoors or in an attached garage.
- Never run a lawnmower, snow blower or any gasoline-powered tools inside a garage or house.
- Regularly clean the clothes dryer ductwork and outside vent cover for blockages such as lint, snow, or overgrown outdoor plants.