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How to test for carbon monoxide in your home

Updated July 20, 2017

Carbon monoxide is an odourless, colourless gas produced by the improper use of burning fuel. Both the United States Fire Administration (USFA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) suggest testing your home for this silent killer. According to the CPSC, 200 people die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Purchase a passive carbon monoxide (CO) test kit also known as a detector badge from any hardware or building supply store. Write the date you use the kit on the front of the badge.

Place the badge where you suspect their may be carbon monoxide gas emissions. These generally include fireplaces, space heaters, furnaces, garages, water heaters and heating vents.

Check the front of the test badge after 15 minutes for changes in colour. If the badge changes to a dark colour, carbon monoxide is in your home.

Leave the house immediately if there is carbon monoxide and call 911. If no carbon monoxide is present, you can use the test badge for 60 to 90 days or according to the manufactures' instructions.

Purchase a carbon monoxide detector or alarm from a home repair or hardware store.

Open the battery compartment and insert two AA batteries. Line up the batteries so the polarities match. Close the battery compartment and pick a location on a wall or ceiling to place the CO alarm.

Take out the paper template (already provided), place it against the wall and mark the holes where you plan to screw in the CO alarm.

Drill holes into the wall for the anchors (already provided). Insert anchors into the wall and tap with the hammer to make sure they are even.

Hammer the screws into the anchors until the heads of the screws are one-eighth of an inch exposed. Slide the CO alarm onto the screws.

Push the test button and hold it until the light-emitting diode (LED) light flashes red. Listen for four beeps, a pause, four beeps and a pause. A red light flashes when the CO alarm works.

Tip

Have your chimney or flue cleaned by a certified chimney sweeper. Install a CO alarm in every bedroom and use with a backup battery and change it twice a year. To prevent an inaccurate reading, place the badge away from direct sunlight, ammonia, solvents and cleaners. Install CO detectors/alarms away from draperies or furniture that cover up the alarm.

Warning

Never use an oven, gas range or portable generator to heat your home.

Things You'll Need

  • Carbon monoxide test kit
  • Carbon monoxide detector/alarm
  • Hammer
  • Drill with 3/16-inch bit
  • Flat screwdriver
  • pencil
  • 2 AA batteries
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About the Author

Nadine Carey has been writing diverse topics since 2003. Her articles were featured in “Student Voice,” West Los Angeles' college newspaper, where she worked as editor and chief. Carey earned an Associate of Arts in liberal arts, and has successfully completed upper studies in the field of speech language pathology at Cal State Northridge University.