Carbon monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless and odourless gas, sometimes called the “silent killer”. Protect yourself and your family from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Dangerous CO levels can result when oil, kerosene, gasoline, diesel, coal, propane, natural gas, or wood burns without enough oxygen. A faulty appliance, a clogged chimney, inadequate venting, back-drafting of flue gas, or the buildup of engine exhaust in a garage can result in dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. If you suspect carbon monoxide in your home or building, exit immediately and call 911 or your local emergency services.

Prevent carbon monoxide in your home

Have a qualified heating dealer:

  • check and clean your heating system regularly – read more about furnace safety.
  • ensure all fuel-burning appliances requiring external vents have venting in place and they are secure;
  • assess the need for a fresh air intake duct for any wood-burning fireplace or stove.

You should:

  • clear your indoor and outdoor vents and chimneys of leaves, birds’ nests, lint, debris, snow, and ice (if necessary);
  • ensure the area around your furnace is clutter-free for proper air circulation, as your furnace needs air to operate properly;
  • check the flame of all natural gas appliances regularly (it should be blue – a yellow burner flame can be a sign of carbon monoxide);
  • never idle your vehicle or operate other gas-powered equipment (i.e. mower, chainsaw, snow blower, trimmer, generator) in your attached garage, even with the overhead door open;
  • never use portable fuel-burning equipment (i.e. generators, patio heaters, barbecues, etc.) inside your home or garage as a temporary heat source during a power outage.

Be aware of the signs of carbon monoxide in your home:

  • Stuffy or stale air.
  • More condensation than usual on your windows.
  • Soot buildup around a fireplace, chimney, or other fuel-burning equipment.
  • Backdrafting of your fuel-burning equipment.
  • A pilot light that keeps going out.

Carbon monoxide detectors

A carbon monoxide detector can alert you to the presence of carbon monoxide gas. An approved and certified CO detector that is properly installed can help save the lives of your family members.

Note: CO detectors are NOT a replacement for the proper use and maintenance of your fuel-burning equipment and appliances.

  • If the CO detector alarms and anyone in the building is not feeling well (or a child, elderly or pregnant), you must react – exit immediately and call 911 or your local emergency services. Never unplug the detector or remove the batteries.
  • Install and maintain CO alarm(s) according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Install carbon monoxide alarms on every floor of your house, especially outside sleeping areas.
  • When buying an alarm, check the unit’s expiry date. If necessary, record the expiry date on your CO alarm(s) with a marker.
  • Test your CO alarm(s) monthly.
  • Replace the CO alarm(s) battery annually, if applicable.
  • Replace your CO alarms every 7 to 10 years, according to manufacturer recommendations.
  • Vacuum your CO alarm(s) monthly.

Read more on carbon monoxide on the Health Canada website.