Many Ontarians put themselves at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning

A recent survey reveals that among the 81 per cent of Ontarians with a fuel-burning appliance in their home, nearly half (45 per cent) have only one carbon monoxide (“CO”) alarm in their multiple level home, putting themselves and their families at risk of a potentially deadly CO leak going undetected.

Known as the “silent killer,” CO poisoning is responsible for hundreds of hospitalizations and more than 10 deaths in Ontario each year.

Coinciding with Ontario’s first-annual Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week, the survey conducted by Direct Energy also shows that only 55 per cent of Ontarians with a fuel-burning appliance have had their furnaces maintained in the past year – an important step to help prevent a CO leak.  Safety experts recommend installing an alarm on every level of the home and to have fuel-powered appliances maintained annually by a qualified technician to reduce the risk of CO poisoning.

The survey also tested Ontarians’ knowledge and awareness about CO, and found that:

  • 40 per cent with a fuel burning appliance worry about suffering from CO poisoning;
  • 87 per cent have at least one CO alarm in place, but not necessarily in the right location:
    • 32 per cent have a CO alarm too close (within 1.5 metres or five feet) to their furnaces
    • 13 per cent have it too close to their gas fireplaces
    • 11 per cent have installed one too close to a window or vent

“While 79 per cent of all Ontarians believe they are able to recognize the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, this survey shows that people need to do much more to keep themselves and their family safe,” says Dave Walton, Director of Home Services, Direct Energy Home Services. “The best way to stay safe is to ensure all fuel-burning devices are properly installed and serviced. It’s imperative to have a qualified technician who is trained to detect carbon monoxide levels inspect and service your furnace annually.”

On October 15, the Ontario Fire Code was amended to mandate the use of CO warning devices in houses, condos, apartments, hotels and university residences that have a fuel-burning device such as a fireplace, gas stove, water heater or furnace — or if the home is attached to a garage.

While the law is a positive step to help keep people safe, more Ontarians need to take proper action and exercise caution with fuel burning appliances especially when heating systems fail, such as during power outages. Shockingly, 15 per cent of Ontarians thought it was okay to heat their home with gas appliances such as an oven or clothes dryer — an unintentional act that could expose you to a lethal amount of CO.

To ensure families stay safe this winter, Direct Energy offers this five-step checklist:

  1. More the merrier. Each floor in your home needs to have a CO alarm. If you live in a two-storey home, you should have three alarms – don’t forget the basement.
  2. Location, location, location. Check that your CO alarm is in close proximity to sleeping areas of the home and not installed near windows, vents or bathrooms, or too close to heating or fuel-burning appliances.
  3. Testing, testing, is this thing on? Push the test button on the unit to ensure it is working. If you do not hear a constant sound your batteries could be dead or your unit is too old – your CO alarm should be replaced every five years.
  4. Annual check-up. Much like going to the doctor, your furnace needs an annual check-up too. Maintenance technicians are trained to detect CO levels and to ensure the safe operation of fuel-burning appliances.
  5. Practice makes perfect. Always be prepared with an escape plan and designate a meeting spot outside of your home.

To find out more about CO safety and how to protect yourself and your loved ones, please visit, a website developed by the Technical Standards and Safety Authority.


About Direct Energy’s survey

From September 22 to September 24, 2014 an online survey was conducted among 800 Ontarians, who are also Vision Critical Canadian Community panel members. The margin of error —which measures sampling variability— is +/- 3.5%, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.



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7 Responses to “Many Ontarians put themselves at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning”

  1. Bruce says:

    Hi Dave.
    Can you clarify ideal locations for the carbon monoxide alarms?

  2. Elangovan Mahalingam says:

    How do I know that the system in my home is functioning properly?
    Do I have to call Direct Energy and check the system? Direct Energy do annual maintenance on my furnace. Please advise!


  3. Elangovan Mahalingam says:

    Thank you very much for your assistance. I will be calling 1 800 266 3939 within couple of days and arrange to include this plan and add it on my Enbridge bill each month.

    Thanks again !


  4. Richard says:


    I have a CO detector in the basement aproxitmatly 2-3 feet from my furnace and twice had warnings from it, once from the furnace which on inspection was leaking CO and has subsequntly been replaced by Direct and once from CO leakage comming in from our attached garage which I have avoided by not closing the door too soon after putting the cars in.. I am wondering why you advise against having the CO alarm near the furnace as it hasn’t seemed to be a problem for us..


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