Carbon Monoxide Detectors

A state law requires the installation of carbon monoxide detectors in your home. What do you need to know?

(430 ILCS 135/) Carbon Monoxide Alarm Detector Act mandates that every dwelling unit in Illinois must be equipped with at least one carbon monoxide alarm within 15 feet of every room used for sleeping purposes.

WHAT IS CARBON MONOXIDE?

Carbon Monoxide (also known as CO) is a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas which can cause poisoning when inhaled. Carbon Monoxide is produced by the incomplete combustion of organic fossil fuels such as oil, gas, or coal. In normal conditions, the combustion process (the addition of oxygen) will result in carbon in the fossil fuel, combining with oxygen, in the air, to produce Carbon Dioxide (CO2), the same substance we exhale when we breathe.

However, if there is a lack of air for the combustion process or the heating appliance is faulty, Carbon Monoxide can be produced.  When CO is inhaled in the body it combines with the blood, preventing it from absorbing oxygen. If a person is exposed to CO over a long enough period, it can cause illness and even death.

WHAT IS THE MAIN REQUIREMENT UNDER THE LAW?   

The law mandates that every dwelling unit must be equipped with at least one approved carbon monoxide alarm in an operating condition within 15 feet of every room used for sleeping purposes. A dwelling unit, defined as a room or suite of rooms used for human habitation, would include a single-family residence as well as each living unit of a multiple-family residence and each living unit in a mixed use building.

ARE THERE ANY EXEMPTIONS TO THIS REQUIREMENT?

The law exempts residential units that are in buildings that: (1) do not rely on combustion of fossil fuel for heat, ventilation or hot water; and (2) are not connected in any way to a garage; and (3) are not sufficiently close to any ventilated source of carbon monoxide. Buildings that have electric heat are exempt.

ARE THERE ANY SPECIFIC REQUIREMENTS ABOUT THE TYPE OF DETECTOR OR ALARM THAT MUST BE USED?

The law allows three different types of alarms to be used to meet the requirement.  The alarm can be battery-powered, a plug-in style (with battery back-up) or it can be wired into the AC power line with secondary battery back-up. 

The Carbon Monoxide alarm must bear the label of a nationally recognized testing laboratory and must comply with the most recent standards of the Underwriters Laboratories. Look for the “UL” symbol on the package. If you are not sure, check with the retailer and read the description and the instructions on the box containing the alarm. 

CAN YOU USE ONE ALARM SYSTEM TO MEET STATE LAWS THAT MANDATE BOTH A SMOKE DETECTOR AND A CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTOR?

YES. The Carbon Monoxide alarm may be combined with the smoke detector provided that combined unit emits an alarm in a manner that clearly differentiates the hazard.

GENERALLY, HOW MUCH DO ALARMS COST?

The price range per alarm is $18 to $50 depending on the features of the alarm. Generally, alarms are available from hardware stores or larger retailers of home products.

IS THERE A PENALTY IF I DO NOT INSTALL A DETECTOR?

Willful failure to install a detector is a Class B misdemeanor. Tampering with, or removing, destroying, disconnecting an alarm (except in inspection or maintenance) is a Class A misdemeanor.  

Here are tips from the Illinois Department of Public Health for preventing CO poisoning in your home:

  • Check gas appliance periodically for proper operation and venting.

  • Make sure flues, chimneys and vents are clear of debris and in good working order.

  • Install CO monitors and check them regularly to make sure they are working properly.

  • Do not use unvented space heaters, gas stoves, or charcoal grills.

  • Check the exhaust system of your car regularly and keep it in good condition.

  • Do not run the car or other gasoline-powered engines in a garage, even with the doors open.

  • Crack car windows when driving.

If you suspect CO exposure or poisoning, first leave the area and call emergency personnel. Next, notify the gas company or the health department. If the CO has affected someone, lead him or her to fresh air, provide oxygen if necessary, and keep them warm and calm until help arrives.

 

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