California law dictates that Carbon Monoxide Detectors are mandatory in all homes: (The Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act of 2010 (Cal. Health & Safety Code §§ 13260 et seq.) was signed into law in 2010. It requires carbon monoxide detectors to be installed in every “dwelling unit intended for human occupancy.”)
Like you, I’ve been confused about the proper placement and installation of those detectors, so here is what I found.
If you have any fossil fuel burning heater or appliance, fireplace, or attached garage, you must have a CO detector/alarm.
Before purchasing a CO detector, know what your state or municipal government requires. Usually a search of the state’s website or call to the local building division will get you headed in the right direction. The basis for these requirements evolved, in part, from recommendations by the 2005 edition of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) carbon monoxide guidelines.
CO detectors can be purchased from most home improvement, hardware, and some office supply stores. Be aware that some are battery powered and some are electric with battery backup. You may have a choice of stand alone CO detectors or combination smoke/CO. When choosing a combination unit, the alarms must be distinguishable. As dictated by the fire code in your particular area, you may only “need” a minimum number of detectors in your home. But in this case, a little redundancy can be a great thing. Think more, not less.
Installation locations will vary by manufacturer due to the degree of research conducted on that specific type and style of detector. Read and clearly understand the instructions specific to your unit. They are not all the same.
These are some general guidelines common to most manufacturers:
- Alarms should be placed on every level of your home, including the basement, and near or over any attached garage.
- They should be located within 10-15 feet outside of each separate sleeping area.
- Detectors can be placed on the wall or the ceiling as specified in the installation instructions.
- Do not install detectors within 15-20 feet of any furnace or fuel burning heat source.
- Detectors should not be placed in or near humid areas, such as bathrooms.
- Place alarms in areas where they will not be damaged by children or pets.
- Do not install alarms in direct sunlight or areas subjected to temperature extremes. (crawlspaces, unfinished attics, porches)
- They should not be installed behind curtains or other obstructions.
- Alarms may not function as designed if installed near ceiling fans, heat vents, air conditioners, fresh air returns, or open windows.
- Life expectancy for detectors will be specific to each manufacturer’s recommendations. Carbon monoxide detectors actually have an expiration date, so check with the manufacturer instructions to determine how long the carbon monoxide detector is supposed to last and maintain your specific unit accordingly.
I hope this helps!