Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Alarms

Smoke Alarms

The majority of fatal house fires occur at night, when most people are asleep. But, a properly working smoke alarm can give you an early warning that there is a problem – this can mean the difference between safety and disaster. 

At a minimum, you should have a smoke alarm on every level of your home, including the basement, one in each bedroom and one outside the sleeping areas. 

Types of smoke alarms

There are three basic types of smoke alarms:

  • Ionization - These work by detecting the changes in electron and ion currents as they move towards their respective places. They are generally very cost-effective and are good at detecting very small amounts of smoke.
  • Photoelectric – These use a light-sensing beam to identify the presence of smoke. They are ideal for detecting slow-burning fires that produce a lot of smoke and are less likely to trigger a false alarm from kitchen and bathroom steam.
  • Ionization/photoelectric combination – This type is a combination of the two technologies and provides the most complete protection. This is the type we recommend.

Smoke alarm maintenance

Follow these steps to ensure your smoke alarm is in good working condition:

  • Test it monthly or as recommended by the manufacturer. Press the test button to ensure the device beeps or rings loudly. Do not use open flames to test it – this can cause it to fail during a real fire.

  • Replace the battery at least twice per year or as recommended by the manufacturer. We recommend doing this at the same time you change your clocks for daylight-saving time. To help you remember the last time you changed the battery, write the date on it with a permanent marker.

  • Replace your entire smoke alarm every eight to 10 years or as recommended by the manufacturer. 

  • Do not disable your smoke alarm when you are cooking.

  • Clean it regularly using your vacuum hose and attachment to remove dust and cobwebs (do not remove the cover when doing so). 

Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Carbon monoxide (CO) alarms are equally as important as smoke alarms, and every home should have one. They alert you of the presence of CO, which is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that cannot be detected with your normal senses and is extremely harmful to your health.

You should have a CO alarm on each floor of your home, and at minimum one on each sleeping floor. 

Sources of carbon monoxide

Improperly installed and vented gas ranges, furnaces, gas water heaters and gas-burning appliances are some of the most common sources of carbon monoxide. Vehicles, lawnmowers and generators can also produce CO when they are run in or near your garage.

Carbon monoxide poisoning

Carbon monoxide is the leading cause of accidental death by poisoning – particularly in unborn babies, infants and senior citizens. Additionally, many CO poisoning cases are misdiagnosed as flu-like symptoms since the body can build up an immunity to it. 

Symptoms of CO poisoning include:

  • Headache

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Fatigue

  • Drowsiness

  • Confusion

  • Fast heart rate

  • Unconsciousness

  • Convulsions

If you suspect you or someone else is experiencing CO poisoning, call 911.

If you hear an alarm

If you hear any alarm sound, call 911 to have us investigate. We have special monitoring equipment that can check your home for carbon monoxide.