CO is a silent killer that can only be detected with a properly working CO Alarm


Hartford – Looking for that last minute holiday gift for family or friends? This season, show your loved ones how much you care about their safety by giving a gift that can save their lives - a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm. Health officials recommend having one on each level of a house or apartment.


CO is an invisible, odorless gas that can be fatal. The symptoms of CO poisoning can mimic those of the flu, including headache, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, or loss of consciousness. CO detectors are the only way to know that the deadly gas is present.


Every winter, hundreds of Connecticut residents are taken to the emergency department due to carbon monoxide exposure from malfunctioning furnaces, fireplaces, improperly placed portable generators and indoor use of charcoal grills. Across the country, unintentional CO poisoning kills over 400 Americans each year.


“The most important thing that you can do to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning is to have properly functioning CO alarms in your house or apartment,” said Department of Public Health Epidemiologist Brian Toal. “Alarms save the lives of many people each year.”


Batteries in battery-powered alarms need to be replaced based on manufacturers recommendations, and units should be tested every month. However, using a test button only tests whether the circuitry is operating correctly, not the accuracy of the sensor. Alarms have a recommended replacement age, which can be obtained from the product literature or from the manufacturer.


“Like any appliance, CO alarms have a limited lifespan, which is generally 5-7 years depending on the alarm manufacturer,” Toal said. “These devices lose their sensitivity over time, so the fresher, the better.”


CO alarms should be installed on every level of the home, outside of sleeping areas, and in the basement. CO alarms should not be located in kitchens near a cooking source, because steam and



particles generated during cooking can prevent the CO alarm from working properly.


The Connecticut Department of Public Health offers some tips to help you choose a carbon monoxide alarm for your home. 

  • Choose carbon monoxide alarms that are UL listed (Underwriter Laboratories).
  • Choose a CO alarm with an electrochemical sensor. This is the most sensitive and accurate type.
  • Choose a model with a digital readout and a “peak level” memory retention feature. The display can give you an early heads up if the CO level is inching up or is higher than usual. It is also helpful for emergency personnel if they suspect CO poisoning.
  • If you have small children, you may consider buying a ‘talking’ CO detector. Some studies have shown voice warnings to be more effective in waking children than bells, buzzers or horns.
  • If you currently have a carbon monoxide alarm, check the back of the unit for either a build date or an expiration date. If there's no date or it's more than five years old, replace it.

DPH also advises residents to have their heating systems serviced each year, and reminds everyone that portable generators should never be used inside your home, basement, or garage. Generators should be located at least 20 feet ways from windows, doors, and vents.


For more information about how to protect yourself and loved ones from carbon monoxide, visit