Carbon Monoxide Alarms for Your Home

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that can kill you. It is the leading cause of accidental poisoning in the United States. Carbon monoxide alarms help to protect you and your family from this invisible threat. Carbon monoxide alarms are required by law in all residential buildings in Chicago where there is a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Building Owner (Landlord) Duties

Building owners must provide required carbon monoxide alarms. Building owners must replace carbon monoxide alarms if they fail, malfunction, or reach the end of their service life.

Building owners must also notify occupants in writing about the occupants’ duty to test and maintain the carbon monoxide alarms within their homes.

Occupant (Tenant) Duties

Occupants must provide and keep working batteries in carbon monoxide alarms that are powered entirely by removable batteries or that require a removable back-up battery.

Occupants must test carbon monoxide alarms within their residence on a regular basis. If a carbon monoxide alarm is not working, the occupant must promptly notify the building owner in writing.

Penalties

Building owners face fines of $500 to $2,000 per day, per violation, if they do not provide working carbon monoxide alarms at required locations. The reason for lack of working carbon monoxide alarms does not matter.

It is against the law to tamper with, deactivate, or remove a required carbon monoxide alarm. Violators can face criminal penalties, including jail time.

Reporting Violations

If you live in a building in Chicago that does not have required carbon monoxide alarms, contact 3‑1‑1. In rental buildings, the Department of Buildings will inspect and take action against building owners found to be breaking the law.

To report an immediate danger to yourself or others, always call 9‑1‑1.

For homeowners, 3‑1‑1 may also be able to refer you to programs that provide low or no-cost alarms. Some homeowners may be eligible for free in-home alarm installation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas. Because you cannot see, taste, or smell carbon monoxide, it can hurt or kill you before you know it is in your home.

Where Does Carbon Monoxide Come From?

Carbon monoxide is produced any time you burn fuels such as wood, charcoal, natural gas, gasoline, or heating oil. Common types of fuel-burning equipment that can produce carbon monoxide include cars and trucks, motorcycles, furnaces, boilers, water heaters, clothes dryers, stoves, ovens, cooktops, grills, fireplaces, lanterns, and emergency generators.

What is Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

Carbon monoxide at high levels is toxic to humans and animals. At lower levels of exposure, carbon monoxide causes symptoms that are often mistaken for the flu. These symptoms can include headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea, and fatigue. The effects of carbon monoxide exposure can vary greatly from person to person depending on age and overall health as well as the length and concentration of exposure.

Who Is At Risk for Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

Everyone is at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. Infants, the elderly, people with chronic heart disease, anemia, or breathing problems are more likely to get sick from carbon monoxide. Each year, more than 400 Americans die from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, more than 20,000 visit the emergency room, and more than 4,000 are hospitalized. Carbon monoxide can also harm pets.

How Do I Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning In My Home?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following steps to protect those in your home from carbon monoxide:

  • Install carbon monoxide alarms inside your home.
  • Test the alarms using the “test” button monthly.
  • Replace the battery in the alarms annually or as often as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Replace the entire alarm once it reaches its expiration date (every 5 to 10 years).
  • Have your fuel-burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
  • If you have a vented fireplace, have your chimney cleaned every year.
  • Never use a gas range or oven for heating your home.
  • Never use flameless chemical heaters, camping stoves, or charcoal grills indoors.
  • Never use a generator indoors or less than 20 feet from any window, door, or vent.
  • Never run your car or truck inside a garage, even with the garage door open.

What Is a Carbon Monoxide Alarm?

Carbon monoxide alarms trigger an audible alarm signal based on a buildup of carbon monoxide that creates a risk to human health. Some alarms may also include a visual indicator or digital readout. Carbon monoxide alarms are designed to alert at a level before most people will experience symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Which Homes Must Have Carbon Monoxide Alarms?

Carbon monoxide alarms are required by law in new and existing homes in Chicago where there is a potential source of carbon monoxide, including:

  • Homes that contain a fuel-burning appliance, such as a gas- or oil-burning furnace, boiler, water heater, clothes dryer, stove, oven, or cooktop
  • Homes that contain a wood- or gas-burning fireplace or heating stove
  • Homes that are connected by air ducts to another area of the building that contains a fuel-burning appliance or fireplace
  • Homes that have a door leading directly to a garage without independent ventilation
  • Homes that are located directly over a garage without independent ventilation

Carbon monoxide alarms are not required in homes that do not have any of these risk factors, such as a home or apartment with all-electric heating and appliances and without an attached garage.

Where Should I Locate Carbon Monoxide Alarms?

In homes that are required to have carbon monoxide alarms, a carbon monoxide alarm must be installed within 15 feet of any room used for sleeping (bedroom). Carbon monoxide alarms must also be installed inside of any room used for sleeping that also contains a fuel-burning appliance or fireplace. Additionally, carbon monoxide alarms must be installed in the same room as every fuel-burning furnace, boiler, or hot water heater.

Because carbon monoxide is slightly lighter than air and often mixes with warm, rising air, carbon monoxide alarms should be installed on a wall at least 5 feet above the floor or on the ceiling. Do not install a carbon monoxide alarm right next to or over a fireplace, stove, or other open-flame-producing appliance.

What Type of Carbon Monoxide Alarm Is Required?

Carbon monoxide alarms must be manufactured to meet the Underwriters’ Laboratory (UL) 2034 standard. This will be permanently marked on the alarm, usually on the back. 

Carbon monoxide alarms in houses and apartments built before 2018 may be powered by a removable battery.

Carbon monoxide alarms in houses and apartments built since 2018 must be connected to the building power (hard-wired) and must also have a removable back-up battery.

You can buy devices that are combined smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms or that interconnect with smoke alarms within your home. These are allowed but not required.

What Do I Do if the Alarm Sounds?

Don't ignore the alarm! It is intended to go off before you experience symptoms. Leave your home immediately and call 9‑1‑1.


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