Do You Need a Carbon Monoxide Detector?

With the recent news reports about a Vancouver household suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, you might be wondering if you need a carbon monoxide detector. Because you can’t hear it, see it, or smell it, when this gas builds up in a home, it can be deadly – an alarm that detects CO2 could save your life.

How does Carbon Monoxide get inside My House?

Carbon monoxide is produced by the combustion of fuels including natural gas, wood, propane, oil, and coal. Appliances such as space heaters, furnaces, fireplaces, refrigerators, stoves, and washers/dryers that use gas or fuel can leak carbon monoxide gas when they are not properly maintained or if something goes wrong with them.

How to Prevent CO2 Leaks in Your Home

If you have fuel-based appliances and/or heating appliances (water heater, fireplace, furnace, etc.) there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of them producing carbon monoxide. These include:

  • have appliances installed by a qualified licensed or registered professional
  • get appliances annually serviced by a professional
  • have the chimney swept regularly
  • use the appliance only for its intended use: e.g. don’t use an outdoor gas grill indoors
  • when having repairs or renovations done in your home, ensure all vents, lines, etc. have not been damaged, misaligned, or blocked in the process

Part of the Vancouver Fire Bylaw

As of May 2017, carbon monoxide detectors became part of the Vancouver Fire Bylaw. Every residential dwelling is required to have at least one carbon monoxide alarm if it has:

  • an attached garage
  • fuel-based appliances
  • a shared floor or wall with a parking garage
  • a shared floor or wall with a service room (e.g. laundry room) housing fuel-based appliances

Types of Carbon Monoxide Detectors

The two types of carbon monoxide detectors are plug-in and hard-wired. There are also combination alarms that detect both smoke and carbon monoxide.

Plug-in CO detectors, as the name implies, plug into standard electrical outlets. Most plug-in carbon monoxide alarms include battery backup, but some don’t.

Hard-wired CO detectors are connected to the home’s electrical system and typically include batteries in the event of a power outage. Since a hard-wired carbon monoxide monitor is integrated into a household’s main power supply, it should be installed by a professional.

How Many Alarms and Where Should they be Installed?

Any room that contains a fuel powered appliance should have a carbon monoxide detector. For example, if you have a wood burning or gas fireplace, a CO2 alarm must be installed in the living room. A carbon monoxide detector should also be installed in or outside of each bedroom in the home.