Why Your Home Requires Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Every year, a silent, yet potentially deadly risk Calgary residents have to address is carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. To reduce the likelihood of a CO leak occurring within your home, we, here at Distinct Heating & Cooling, have prepared the following information about carbon monoxide, along with tips on installing and maintaining CO detectors in your home.

Carbon Monoxide FAQs

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is an odourless and colourless gas you cannot smell, taste, or see. Carbon monoxide does naturally occur in the air around us, but CO becomes dangerous when there is an excessive amount of CO in the air.
How is carbon monoxide created?

Carbon monoxide is created as a by-product from incomplete combustion from gasoline, coal, natural gas, kerosene, methane, wood, and propane. Some common examples of combustion processes, at home and in the workplace, where CO is created, include:

  • Exhaust Fumes from Automobiles
  • The Incomplete Burning of Any Fuel (Gasoline, Propane, Natural Gas, Kerosene, etc.)
  • Tobacco Smoke
  • Burning of Any Fuel in an Enclosed Space
  • Improperly Functioning Gas Appliances
  • Wood Burning Stoves and Fireplaces
  • Faulty or Blocked Chimneys

Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur from faulty or improperly functioning heating appliances or furnaces, as well as water heaters, portable generators, and clothes dryers. Even leaving a car running in a garage is a major risk.

Why is there a risk?

Carbon monoxide poisoning is real and very life threatening. When there are faulty or improperly functioning, or installed appliances, including your furnace, it can allow CO gas to be released into the air inside your home. The risks for CO poisoning are greater during the cold winter months since most Calgary homes are heated by gas furnaces, fireplaces, wood burning stoves, and hot water heaters. As such, any of these could be potential source for a CO leak in your home.

Signs/Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Keep in mind, any sign, not matter how minor, should not be taken lightly and should be attended to immediately for your own protection.

Mild CO Poisoning

  • Nausea
  • Flu-like Symptoms
  • Slight Headache

Medium CO Poisoning

  • Severe/Throbbing Headache
  • Increased Heart Rate
  • Vomiting
  • Drowsiness

Extreme CO Poisoning

  • Unconsciousness
  • Convulsions
  • Heart Failure
  • Breathing Failure
  • Death

Types of Carbon Monoxide Detectors for Your Calgary Home

To help protect you and your family, your home should have carbon monoxide detectors installed by a professional  furnace installation company. There are three different types of CO detectors on the market to choose from:

  • Battery Operated
  • Hardwired into the Home’s Electrical Wiring System
  • Plugged-in (Plugs into an Electrical Outlet)

Carbon monoxide detectors have sensors to help detect the presence of CO within your home. There are normally three different types of sensors in CO detectors: biomimetic, electrochemical, and metal oxide.

Distinct Heating & Cooling recommends you have either hardwired or battery operated detectors installed in your home. If you opt for the hardwired detector, there is even a combination CO detector and smoke detector, which is an attractive option most homeowners choose.

Installing a Carbon Monoxide Detector

In Alberta, building code regulations state there must be one CO detector installed within five meters of every bedroom door. This requirement helps provide for early detection and warning of carbon monoxide leaks inside your home. To ensure your home is properly protected, it is recommended to interconnect the detectors installed throughout the home. This way, if an alarm is triggered by one detector, they will all sound.

Maintaining a Carbon Monoxide Detector

In order for CO detectors to function correctly and provide you and your family with protection, they do need to be cleaned at least once every six months. All that is required is to gently vacuum the openings on the detectors with a soft brush attachment to help remove dust. You should never touch any part of the detector or the sensors with the plastic end of the vacuum hose.

Whether you have hardwired or battery operated detectors installed within your home, you should replace the batteries on an annual basis or whenever the low battery signal sounds.

Regardless of the type of CO detectors you use, you should test them on a monthly basis. Most models have a “test” button on the outside you simply press and hold until the alarm goes off. If any of the detectors does not work correctly, replace it immediately.

The sensors inside CO detectors have a limited lifespan and will eventually wear out. Most sensors are designed to last between five to seven years. Many of the newer CO detector models also have an end-of-life timer built into them, so you will know when your detector has reached the end of its useful life. Once a detector has reached the end of its lifespan, it will start beeping constantly until the unit is replaced.

Other Safety Precautions to Take

After a snow storm, especially with large accumulations, you should check the exhaust vents of your appliances to ensure they are not blocked and covered by snow. The exhaust vents could be on your roof, or on the side of the home.

Never leave a car running in your garage, even with the garage door open. If you need to warm it up, start it and back it up into your driveway.

Never use fuel burning equipment indoors unless it is properly vented, such as power generators and gas/propane grills.

Never use fuel burning equipment in your garage, storage shed, or other enclosed outdoor areas, even if the doors are open.

Make sure regular and annual maintenance is performed on your furnace, fireplace, wood burning stove, gas appliances, and hot water heater. Carbon monoxide detectors might not always detect lower levels of CO gas. By having your heating system and related appliances inspected by a professional, at least once a year, it helps detect potential problems and leaks before they become more serious.

What to Do If a CO Alarm Sounds

If your CO detector alarm sounds, move to a location with fresh air immediately, either outdoors or near an open window or door that is drawing a steady stream of fresh air into the home.

Call the appropriate emergency services from the fresh air location.

Do not re-enter the home until after the emergency services have arrived and determined the cause for the alarm, resolve the problem, and verified it is safe.

The Best CO Detector Is One That Never Goes Off

At Distinct Heating & Cooling, we believe the best carbon monoxide detectors are those that never sound an alarm. By properly maintaining furnaces and appliances, and verifying they have been correctly vented, the risk of leaking CO gas into your home is minimized.

For more information about CO detectors, annual furnace maintenance, furnace repair, or other heating, cooling and humidification solutions for your Calgary home, contact us today at (403) 477-3810. Our experienced and knowledgeable technicians offer full inspections, maintenance, installation, repair, and 24/7 emergency services, with exceptional service and cost effective solutions, in Calgary and the surround area, for your home.