In 2011, laws passed almost simultaneously in many states required the installation of carbon monoxide (CO) alarms in most houses, apartment buildings, rental dwellings and hotels. Since most CO alarms have a lifespan of no more than 7 years, yours might be expiring right now.
Old units lose efficiency and can put your family at risk of fatal CO poisoning. CO is invisible and odorless, so an early warning from a working CO alarm is crucial. CO can be created when fuels used in heating and cooking equipment don’t burn completely. Vehicles or generators running in an attached garage can also produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.
Some questions you should ask yourself:
- Do I have enough CO alarms (and smoke alarms)? The US Fire Administration recommends installing CO alarms in a central location outside each separate sleeping area and on every level of your home (including the basement).
- Do all alarms comply with manufacturer instructions and current guidelines about their shelf life? Check the manufacturer’s recommendations (usually on the back of each unit) for how often your CO alarm will need to be replaced. It’s usually 5 to 7 years.
- Do I know that every alarm—both CO and smoke alarm—is working? Even units that have life-long batteries or are hard-wired still need to be checked at least every six months. The US Fire Administration suggests checking each alarm once a month. Learn how to test your CO alarm here.
- Will everyone in your home always respond immediately and appropriately when any alarm activates? Have you planned your escape route? Have you practiced it? Could everyone do it even if the alarm sounds in the middle of the night?
- Can everyone living in my home hear every alarm from any location—especially from their bedrooms? For those that have significant hearing issues, bed shakers and strobe lights can supplement alarms. For all homes, interconnected alarms are recommended. You can convert existing units, both smoke and CO, to be wirelessly interconnected using products available in stores and online. Learn more from manufacturers First Alert and Kidde.