Directions for a Carbon Monoxide Alarm

Written by steven douglas
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Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odourless killer that claims hundreds of lives every year. Installing a carbon monoxide alarm is the best way to protect your family from this silent killer. The risk for carbon monoxide exposure increases in the winter when heaters and gas appliances are running more. All fuel-burning appliances and heating systems generate some carbon monoxide. Venting this type of equipment is especially important. In northern regions, furnace vents can become snow-blocked so it's important to check them often. Carbon monoxide alarms will detect harmful levels of carbon monoxide before flu-like symptoms, drowsiness and cardiovascular effects occur. Easy to install and simple to maintain, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends that every homeowner has a properly functioning alarm installed.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Drywall anchors
  • 9 volt battery
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Drill with 1/8-inch bit

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  1. 1

    Locate your potential carbon monoxide (CO) alarm locations on the ceiling or at least 5 feet above the floor. Since CO is lighter than air, if you reside in a multistory home or long ranch-style house, at least two carbon monoxide detectors should be installed. The most important place to install a CO alarm is near the sleeping area.

  2. 2

    Check to be sure that you aren't installing carbon monoxide alarms in a damp location or within 5 feet of any gas appliances. Doing so will encourage the alarm to give false readings, and will encourage you to ignore the alarm in the case of an actual emergency.

  3. 3

    Remove the covering from the two tape strips located at the base of the alarm, and press the alarm firmly onto the ceiling or wall's surface in the desired location. If your unit does not use sticky tape as a mounting technique, you may drill a 1/8-inch hole using a cordless drill, and insert two wall anchors at the location marked on the back of the alarm.

  4. 4

    Screw the alarm into the two wall anchors using a Phillips screwdriver. Check the unit to be sure it is operational by pressing the "Test" button located on the face of the alarm. The alarm should emit an audible test noise, loud enough to be heard in nearby rooms and throughout the house.

  5. 5

    Monitor your CO alarm frequently. The American Gas Association classifies carbon monoxide concentrations over 15 ppm (parts per million) as generally unhealthy. UL-approved carbon monoxide detectors are preprogrammed to sound an alarm at concentrations of 15 ppm, 70 ppm and 150 ppm. If the carbon monoxide alarm sounds, press the test button and open a window to improve ventilation. Determine the cause of the elevated CO reading as soon as possible.

Tips and warnings

  • Clean carbon monoxide alarms regularly with a vacuum attachment to prevent dust build-up. Battery-powered alarms should be tested weekly and replaced every five years.
  • Carbon monoxide leaks can be very elusive. However, pilot lights and other gas equipment are the most frequent culprits. Check pilot lights for a blue flame. If the flame is yellow or orange it can be contributing to carbon monoxide build-up. Test carbon monoxide alarms regularly and schedule seasonal service calls to keep gas equipment and furnaces running smoothly.

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