Carbon Monoxide in your Home – Ontario’s New Carbon Monoxide Alarm Law

Carbon Monoxide detector

The Ontario legislature recently passed a bill mandating carbon monoxide alarms in homes with gas appliances and/or an attached garage. The law, expected to be in place before the end of 2013, will be enforced by local fire departments and penalties will be similar to those related to smoke detectors.

At Direct Energy, we support this new legislation which will help to keep Ontarians safe and healthy. We strongly encourage you not to wait for the law to be in place and take steps now to protect your family from carbon monoxide poisoning. This includes installing a carbon monoxide alarm and regularly maintaining your gas appliances.

What is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide, known as the silent killer, is an odourless, tasteless and colourless gas that can cause serious health problems or death. In Ontario, over 70 per cent of all carbon monoxide deaths and injuries occur in residential homes. Carbon monoxide is a by-product of burning fossil fuels like natural gas, wood, propane, and oil and residential sources include gas fireplaces, furnaces and stoves. Carbon monoxide poisoning is characterized by flu-like symptoms. If your family starts to experience these symptoms you must get everyone out of the house immediately and call 911.

How do you prevent Carbon Monoxide in your home? The most important action you can take to detect carbon monoxide is to install alarms in your home. To be most effective, ensure the alarms are situated in the right locations. A common mistake is placing alarms in the basement by the furnace. Since carbon monoxide travels upstairs through ductwork and vents it’s important to install one near your heating equipment and another near any bedrooms.

In addition to installing carbon monoxide alarms, follow these tips to reduce your risk:

Prepare your furnace for winter

  • Schedule an inspection and maintenance for gas appliances, such as furnaces, boilers and fireplaces to make sure your equipment is ready for winter. An inspection can help detect carbon monoxide leaks and help prevent the development of hazardous conditions.

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Test and update your equipment

  • Test your carbon monoxide alarms monthly by pushing the test button on the unit to ensure it’s working properly.
  • Replace batteries in your carbon monoxide alarms each year and replace any unit older than five years.

Check for blockages

  • Have a licensed technician check fireplaces and chimneys for closed or blocked flues which could cause carbon monoxide leakages.
  • Ensure all gas fired appliances are properly vented and check that there are no blockages around the outdoor vent which could potentially stop air from properly escaping.

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Simply being aware of the risks won’t protect you from carbon monoxide poisoning; you need to take steps to prevent it. And not only is this a safety issue, by properly maintaining your equipment you’re extending the life of it and it will operate more efficiently, which could save you money on your energy bills.

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61 Responses to “Carbon Monoxide in your Home – Ontario’s New Carbon Monoxide Alarm Law”

  1. Ken Wasylyk says:

    Hi,

    Please advise how close to the heating vent and at what height the carbon monoxide detector should be located.

    Thanks.

    Ken

    • Dave says:

      Hi Ken,
      If you decide to close a heating vent you might notice a wheel or tab on the side of the vent that closes it. CO detectors are either plugged into the wall about a foot from the ground or part of a dual smoke / CO detector on the ceiling. It’s important to place them near every sleeping area in the home.

      • Ben says:

        I believe Ken was asking “how close TO a heating vent” the alarm should be installed, he was not asking how to close (shut off) a heating vent.

      • Richard von Briesen says:

        Sorry I don’t understand the reference in your reply to the little knob or wheel to turn off the vent. What does this have to do with the location of the CO detector?

        • Dave says:

          Sorry everyone. I didn’t read that comment correctly and thought I was being asked how to close a heating vent. As long as the alarm is located in the same room and not obstructed by furniture, curtains or other objects the proximity to the vent should not make a big difference for a normal sized room, but, check the installation instructions as every unit is different and some may have specific requirements.
          Dave

  2. Maria says:

    when does this go into effect

  3. Richard says:

    What can I expect to pay for a good CO detector for my home? How long will these be good for?

    • Dave says:

      Hi Richard.
      It all depends on the model and type. You can get them hard-wired into your home’s electrical system but you’ll pay for an electrician’s labour as well as the product cost. On the other end, you can get plug in types for about $40 that have a lifespan between five and seven years. Our techs carry them on their trucks and can install it in the right area of your home or you can shop around at any hardware store to see the various models.
      Dave

  4. Susan says:

    Please clarify…..article says not to place the detector by the furnace but then says to put it near heating equipment. If heating equipment is not the furnace, what is it?

  5. Elizabeth says:

    Hi,

    I recently installed a new gas furnace and the vent out for the carbon monoxide is just outside my side entrance of the house.

    I find myself breathing in all the fumes when I am shovelling snow or doing other work.

    How dangerous is this for me and for the other people in the house?

    Liz

    • Dave says:

      Hi Elizabeth,
      I wouldn’t recommend inhaling any of those fumes, regardless of how much more fun it makes the shoveling! On a more serious note, the installation team wouldn’t have vented your unit unsafely, as all installations must be to code, and safety is a major factor.
      Dave

  6. Sarah says:

    My current co detector is a dual detector for both smoke and co and it is hard wired. Would a technician be able to install a new one or do I need an electrician?

    • Dave says:

      Hi Sarah,
      It all depends on how handy you are! Take a look at a few YouTube videos and watch how it’s done to see if it’s something your comfortable doing. I always recommend that people call an electrician when working with their homes electrical system.
      Dave

      • Barckley Brooker says:

        She was asking if one of your technicians could install a hard wired detector or if she had to get an electrician. It is clear from her question that she was not planning on doing it herself. I think all your technicians are also quite capable of installing a hard wired detector but I’ll let you make that call.

        • Dave says:

          Okay Barckley, clearly I rushed through that one to get to lunch! It all depends on the complexity of the installation. Our technician would be able to provide a recommendation and determine if they would be able to install the alarm.
          Dave

        • Barckley Brooker says:

          Just for clarification, she says that she already has a hard wired detector. Since the wires are already there, it seems to only be an exchange of detectors that she is looking for (I assume because her current detector is old and needs to be replaced).

          • Dave says:

            That’s correct, it should be a simple swap, but because we don’t know what we’re working with, we can never be certain. We’ve had situations where we expect a simple swap but find a disaster waiting to be discovered, plumbing, wiring, you name it, we’ve seen the worst. In almost all cases it should be a very simple straight exchange though.
            Dave

          • Sarah says:

            Thanks Barckley :) that’s exactly what I was meaning, because I just wanted to replace the old detectors I figure it wasn’t a full hard wiring job and I could avoid the cost of the electrician. I appreciate your help :)

  7. jim says:

    We have Carbon monoxide detectors (AC powered) in place on every floor including the basement, but the major concern is with a power interruption, the forward warning will be compromised. Dual powered monitors are a better alternative?

    • Dave says:

      Hi Jim,
      Dual powered alarms are a good option, but if you dont want to replace your existing system you can purchase a plug-in / battery back-up unit for each floor as a secondary safety measure.
      Dave

  8. abduselam dessuky says:

    Are there alarms that work both as a Carbon Monoxide Detector and smoke detecter

  9. Sam says:

    Hi Dave, i have 2 Carbon Monoxide detectors, both of which went off recently but when the Fire Department and Direct Energy/Enbridge technician came over inside my home to check the air quality both of their hand held detectors gave a reading of 0, can something set off the detectors to give a false alarm?

    • Dave says:

      Hi Sam.
      First of all, I’m happy to hear that you have them and that they went off. I can’t say what would have made them go off, if you had one, I could have leaned towards a false alarm, but since you have two, my gut tells me there was a sudden increase in CO levels and the alarms did their jobs. For the cause of the high levels, if the fire department and out techs couldn’t identify it, I’m not going to start guessing, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a problem. After opening the door to let the fire department in and other responders, the fresh air coming in could have helped eliminate the high amounts of CO in the air and maybe that’s why the first responders didn’t detect anything. It’s hard to say, but most importantly, you had alarms and they did their job and you’re safe. Remember to have all your fuel burning appliances inspected annually and change the batteries in your alarms twice a year,
      Dave

      • Karyn Lockhart says:

        Hi Dave,

        To help answer that question. I had a CO dectector on the main floor (open concept hallway, living room and dining room). When I have many guests over, the CO dectector goes off! The party comes to a halt every time.
        The firemen advised me to move it to another location. The same thing happens when located next to the furnace room.
        They again advised me that it was too close and to put in an extra return air vent in that space.
        That’s my story.

  10. Neetu says:

    Hi, I want to know where to install CO detector if gas appliances? And if it is gas fireplace.

    • Dave says:

      Hi Neetu,
      Carbon monoxide alarms should be placed near all sleeping areas of the home and on every level. It wouldn’t hurt to put one in the same room as the gas fireplace as well.
      Dave

  11. Jay says:

    I built my home in September 2008. How can I tell if the installed smoke detectors have a CO2 detector component?

    • Dave says:

      Hi Jay,
      You should be able to pop them off the base and read the model number on the back side without pulling the wires out too much. I suggest searching for that model online to determine if it has a CO alarm.
      Dave

  12. laura says:

    We were told that we do not have to vent our gas stove/oven that is in the basement because it gives off low levels of gas…is this true or should we vent out?

    • Dave says:

      Hi Laura,
      It’s always a good idea to vent an appliance to the outdoors, especially a fuel burning appliance. If a TSSA licensed inspector approved your installation then it is up to code and fine for use. However, one thing you’ll notice is that if your basement isn’t getting a lot of fresh air, the cooking smell won’t be pleasant. I’ve been in homes where the kitchen stove wasn’t vented with a range hood and the smells were very strong, I can only imagine how bad it could get with a basement stove being near the intake vents for the furnace and then being pushed up through the home. Also, please make sure you have smoke and carbon monoxide alarms throughout the house.
      Dave

  13. Brian says:

    in the above pic 1 pipe is pointed up and the other down, why?

    • Dave says:

      Hi Brian,
      One pipe is the exhaust and the other is the intake. They are pointed away from each other, upper pipe exhausts upwards and intake pulls cool air from the ground,
      Dave

  14. Milly Chidley says:

    Just a note of thanks for all the important imformation Direct Energy sends out to us homeowners. It is really appreciated.

    Rhw awecuxw i have received over the years from Direct Energy has been rirst rate. Thank you for that as well.

    • Dave says:

      Thanks Milly. If anyone has any topics they would like covered in my posts please send them to me, I am more than happy to write about things that interest you.
      Dave

  15. Syd Johnson says:

    I have a portable one…3 or 4 years old. It spooks my dog.
    What total approx. price am I looking at to get a hard wired one installed

    • Dave says:

      Hi Syd,
      I can’t give you an accurate answer on this without knowing more about your home. It really all depends on type of house, type of electrical system, number of alarms, difficulty of installation (how easy can the unit reach pre-existing wiring) and so on. Some electrical companies offer flat rates for installation and others time and labour. If you want a hard wired model consider having at least two people in to give you quotes.
      Dave

  16. Malini says:

    Does Direct Energy install Carbon Monoxide Detectors?

    • Dave says:

      Hi Malini,
      Direct Energy does sell and install plug-in and battery operated carbon monoxide detectors. If you want as hard wired model, you would need to contact an electrician.
      Dave

  17. Syd Johnson says:

    Dave, How much does a plug alarm cost from Direct Energy?. My battery operated alarm sits on the landing upstairs between bedrooms of which I have four. I recently had my furnace checked by Direct Energy and I was asked if I had an alarm.

  18. Scott Baylis says:

    Hello,
    First of all I am quite in favour of Ontario’s Bill 18 regarding mandatory CO detector installation in homes & other locations. However, your information above contained in the first sentence of your article gives one the impression that this law is in effect or soon to be in effect. When you check the link provided to the Ontario Legislature Assembly concerning the status of this Bill you will see that it has only been carried on First reading on 28 February 2013 and therefore has a long way to go before becoming law. Perhaps you should reword the introduction to your article to reflect this fact.

    • Dave says:

      Thanks Scott,
      The Bill passed Third Reading and received Royal Assent in November 2013, but this was the most recent link I could find. Perhaps it hasn’t been updated yet? I’ve asked our government relations team to provide me with the date this officially becomes law.

      • Scott Baylis says:

        Hello again,
        I looked at the Ontario Legislative Assembly website again & realize now what has transpired. Bill 18 was the version of the Hawkins Gignac Act that was not recently given Royal Assent. Instead Bill 77 the Hawkins Gignac Act was passed in late December 2013.
        The effect will basically be the same but Bill 77 does not specifically spell out as much detail as the previous Bill 18 did but allows the Minister responsible to make regulations similar to the previous Bill 18 under amendments to the Fire Protection and Prevention Act 1997. Probably the spirit of the previous version (Bill 18) will be incorporated in the regulations by the Minister.

  19. Chana says:

    Does CO rise or fall? Should the detector be placed on the ceiling , as the smoke detector is, or should it be placed lower on the wall?

  20. Jake Deblois says:

    Hi Dave:

    How often in the year do I have to book for appointments to have the urnace inspected by Direct Energy? Are these inspections covered by my existing heating/cooling/plumbing insurance policy with Direct Energy?
    Jake

    • Dave says:

      Hi Jake,

      The TSSA recommends annual maintenance on your equipment. If you have a heating or cooling plan plus maintenance then you are covered. If you would like to confirm your coverage you can call us at 1-800-266-3939 and we’ll be happy to review your coverage with you.

      Dave

  21. Tracy says:

    I have 1 CO detector on the main level of the house (bungalow) we have an attached garage and a gas fire place in the basement. How many CO detectors should I have in the house total? Should I have one in the basement where there are bedrooms?

  22. Rus says:

    Hi Dave,

    The new Ontario Legislature CO Detector Bill stipulates under the section the kind of CO Detector to use. The section says:

    “(6) A carbon monoxide detector required by this section shall,

    (a) be permanently connected to an electrical circuit and shall have no disconnect switch between the overcurrent device and the carbon monoxide detector;

    (b) be wired so that its activation will activate all carbon monoxide detectors in the suite, if the detector is located in a suite that is used for residential occupancy; …”

    Questions:

    1. Does this pretty much disqualify plug-in or stand-alone CO detectors?

    2. Is there such a product as one that is ‘permanently connected to an electrical circuit’ and is ‘wired so that its activation will activate all carbon monoxide detectors in the suite/?

    2. If so, are there service companies who provide and install this kind of ‘wired’ CO detector ‘system? Does Direct Energy do this?

    Thank you.

    • Dave says:

      Hi Rus,

      I read through the legislation and it looks like the answer to your question lies in how old your home is. Here’s what the legislation says for buildings built before 2001.

      Pre-2001 buildings

      (7) In the case of a building that existed on August 6, 2001 or for which a permit was issued under the Building Code Act, 1992 on or before that day, a battery operated carbon monoxide detector or a carbon monoxide detector that is plugged into an electrical circuit in the building is deemed to comply with clauses (6) (a) and (b).

      http://www.ontla.on.ca/web/bills/bills_detail.do?locale=en&Intranet=&BillID=2732

      Dave

  23. gurpreet says:

    hi, I have carbon monoxide n smoke alarm at home, yesterday it start making beep (it beep every 2 to 3 min)we replace the battery(its wired too)we reset everything, but after some time it start beeping and I also smell sometime like LGP gas in my home. can u suggest me what should I do?

  24. owen says:

    Just to clarify: If my home was built 2001 or later, I will need a hard wired Co detector. For older homes, a plug in will do?
    Please confirm.
    Owen

    • Dave says:

      Hi Owen,
      We are still waiting on the final regulations from the Ontario Government. At this point the final details of the new laws are still somewhat of a mystery for now.
      Dave

  25. Kylasandra says:

    I have a very important question and can’t seem to find an answer. My mom just moved in an apartment two or three months ago. They requested co detectors be placed in apartment as they have ha heating an my mom had a gas stove placed in home. The landlord argued point and cops even told her to supply them. Well it still hasn’t been done. I am wondering when was law in place and how long after law are they required to supply to new renters, let alone in each apartment

    • Dave says:

      Hi Kylasandra,
      Take a look at COsafety.ca and if you don’t find your answer on that site follow-up with them and see if they can answer your questions, or, you could contact your local City councilor for assistance.
      Dave

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