Do Carbon Monoxide Detectors Expire?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an invisible threat in our homes and workplaces, so it is essential that you know where to look for the carbon monoxide detector expiration date and what it means.

CO detector alarms are designed to detect the presence of CO gas, helping prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. It alerts you by giving a warning beep or sound before high levels of gas concentration are reached.

Understanding how CO detectors work is crucial because these tools can help safeguard you and your family against potential unseen health risks.

In this post, we’ll explore further to better understand CO detectors, from the carbon monoxide detector expiration date to how many CO detectors you may need.

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What is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is a gas that doesn’t have an odour, colour, or taste. It is often dubbed the “silent killer” due to its hard-to-detect nature. Poisonous CO gas is produced by the incomplete burning of materials containing carbon.

Although carbon monoxide naturally forms from many common sources, if it builds up without proper ventilation, especially in confined areas, it can present significant health risks to humans and animals.

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What is Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

Carbon monoxide poisoning happens when a person or animal inhales CO, leading to a build-up of carbon monoxide in the bloodstream. This inhibits the blood’s capacity to carry oxygen, potentially resulting in tissue damage and potentially death.

A CO detector may still operate even if it is past the carbon monoxide detector expiration date however, you should be aware of the common CO symptoms in humans, which can include:

Headaches Dizziness Weakness
Nausea Vomiting Chest Pain

Knowing the carbon monoxide detector expiration date can save your life because without proper ventilation or detection, you might not even be aware your health is being exposed to this deadly unseen gas.

A graphic to show that carbon monoxide can be detected.

What is a CO Detector?

A carbon monoxide detector (or CO alarm) is a device that sounds an alarm when the presence of CO reaches a dangerous level. CO detectors are similar in appearance to smoke alarms and can be purchased as combined smoke and CO detectors.

How do CO Detectors work?

If the carbon monoxide detector expiration date is still good, the CO detector continuously monitors the air in your home or workplace for the presence of carbon monoxide using sensing technologies. When CO is present, it reacts with the sensors, triggering an alert.

To test its functionality, most CO detectors come with a ‘test’ button. When pressed, the device should emit a loud noise. This tests the alarm system but not the sensor itself.

How Many Carbon Monoxide Detectors Do You Need?

The general rule of thumb is to have at least one CO detector on every floor of your home (or business), especially near sleeping areas. For optimal protection, you might consider installing CO detectors in every bedroom, sleeping area, and common room, to ensure everyone in the household can hear the alarm and respond promptly.

This placement ensures comprehensive coverage and provides early warning in case CO levels rise anywhere in your dwelling. Here are the factors you should consider when installing CO detectors:

  • How Large is the Property? The larger the space, the more CO detectors are needed. It’s not just about quantity but also about ensuring comprehensive coverage. A five-bedroom home won’t have the same needs as a studio apartment.
  • Where is the Source of Carbon Monoxide? Homes with multiple potential CO sources can influence the number of detectors required. Fireplaces, attached garages, and several gas appliances might need additional detectors to provide full protection.
  • What is the Layout of Your Home? An open floor plan versus a home with multiple compartments might need different CO detector placement strategies.
  • Do You Have a Basement or Attached Garage? Basements and garages are particularly critical because CO can accumulate in these closed-off areas more easily.

Where Should CO Detectors Be Placed?

We recommend that you always buy new CO detectors and check the carbon monoxide detector expiration date prior to installation. The expiration date is generally found on the back of the device. Strategic placements to maximize protection might include:

Sleeping Areas Above Fuel-Burning Appliances
Basement and Attic Garage and Workshops

Learn more in-depth information in our ‘Where to Place a Carbon Monoxide Detector’ blog.

The back of a First Alert CO detector showing the expiration date.
First Alert CO Detector Expiration Date

How Long Do Carbon Monoxide Detectors Last?

Typically, CO detectors have a lifespan of 5-10 years, depending on the model and manufacturer.

First Alert Carbon Monoxide Detector alarms typically range from 5 to 7 years before needing maintenance, a battery change, or replacement. The manufacturer’s carbon monoxide detector expiration date is typically printed on the back of the alarm.

Over time, the device’s sensors can wear out, reducing its ability to detect CO. Always check the manufacturer’s recommendations and replace CO detectors when they near or reach their expiration.

Mark the expiration date and set reminders to check the detector’s functionality as it nears the end of its life cycle.

Why is There a CO Detector Expiration Date?

Since the chemical sensors that detect CO degrade, an expired detector may not respond as well to CO, putting households at risk. Exposure to even low levels of CO can accumulate on the sensor, reducing its sensitivity.

Environmental factors, such as fluctuations in humidity and temperature, can also hasten this process.

First Alert, a trusted brand in the realm of safety, prints clear carbon monoxide detector expiration dates on their devices, making it straightforward for users to determine when a replacement is necessary.

However, an approaching expiration date doesn’t necessarily mean the detector needs immediate replacement but we do recommend that you replace it soon.

CO Detector Monitoring & Maintenance

Beyond CO detector installation and testing, it’s important to regularly monitor, and maintain CO detectors.

  1. Monthly Testing: Press the ‘test’ button to ensure the CO alarm sounds.
  2. Battery Replacement: Even wired-in detectors have batteries. Set a calendar reminder to replace the batteries every 6 months or whenever you hear the low-battery signal chirping. Most CO detectors take 9-volt batteries so be sure to always have spare batteries on hand.
  3. Clean: Gently vacuuming the detector every couple of months can help prevent dust and debris from affecting the CO detector’s sensitivity.

How To Test a Carbon Monoxide Detector

To test the CO detector, read the manual and choose a safe time, preferably when everyone is awake, and the windows can be closed. Then, press the Test Button and listen for the alarm sound, like a beep or alarm.

Once tested, be sure to reset the CO detector and write down the test date. If the CO detector fails the test, replace it, or seek advice from the manufacturer.

How to Change the Battery in a Carbon Monoxide Detector

First, check the manual for the correct battery type, which in most cases is a 9-volt battery. Use the correct replacement batteries as per the manufacturer’s recommendations. Simply follow the manual to change the old batteries and replace them with the new ones.

CO Detector Troubleshooting

If your CO detector frequently gives false alarms, fails to alert when tested, or sounds alerts in the absence of CO, it might indicate a faulty device that needs to be replaced.

Common CO detector issues you should be aware of include:

  • Battery or power issues.
  • The detector is near a window or a vent where drafts might be preventing CO from reaching the sensors.
  • Other interference from household chemicals or items might cause false alarms.
  • If nearing or past the carbon monoxide detector expiration date, it’s time for a replacement.
  • The device fails to sound an alarm when CO is present.
  • The digital display shows erratic readings or fails to display any information.
  • The detector gives unusual sounds different from the standard alert signal.

If you encounter any of these issues, it’s crucial to address them promptly. Contact the manufacturer, call our electricians at 604-308-6195, or consult your device’s manual for troubleshooting guidance.

What Can Cause a CO Detector to Go Off?

CO detectors are sensitive devices and can be triggered by any of the following:

  • The presence of carbon monoxide.
  • Faulty or malfunctioning detectors.
  • A low battery.
  • Interference from drafts or other household chemicals or gases.
  • The placement is too close to gas-emitting appliances.
  • Exposure to sustained high humidity or extreme temperature changes.
  • Environmental factors like aerosols or certain chemicals.

What To Do If Your CO Detector Is Signaling Carbon Monoxide

If the alarm on your carbon monoxide detector goes off, evacuate your home or workplace immediately. Stay outside for fresh air and call 911 for help. Do not re-enter the premises until it’s confirmed safe by authorities. Have an expert investigate the cause of the alert and address any potential CO sources before re-entering the building.

What Happens If Your Carbon Monoxide Detector Beeps?

If you have a First Alert Carbon Monoxide Detector, here is what First Alert states on their website.

4 Beeps and a Pause:
There is carbon monoxide in the air, and you should seek fresh air immediately and call 9-1-1.

1 Beep Every Minute:
The CO alarm has low batteries, which should be replaced immediately.

5 Beeps Every Minute:
Your carbon monoxide detector expiration date has passed. The unit has reached the end of its life and needs to be replaced with a new carbon monoxide alarm.

What to do When a Carbon Monoxide Detector Goes Off During a Power Outage

Here are some steps to follow when a carbon monoxide detector goes off during a power outage.

  • Stay Calm: Keep a clear head to make sound decisions.
  • Evacuate Immediately: Regardless of the power outage, if your CO detector sounds, it’s essential to treat it as a genuine threat. Gather all members of the household and your pets and leave the property right away.
  • Seek Fresh Air: Move to an open space outside, away from the windows and doors of the home.
  • Call for Help: Once you’re safely outside, call and report the alarm. Premium Electric offers 24-hour emergency services.
  • Avoid Re-Entry: Do not go back inside until professionals have confirmed your home is safe.
  • Check Backup Battery: When it’s safe to do so, make sure your detectors have backup batteries and replace them if needed.
  • Inspect Potential Sources: Once it’s safe to return, with the help of professionals, inspect potential CO sources to determine the cause of the alarm.

Let Our Electricians Help

CO detectors play a role in safeguarding households from the hidden dangers of carbon monoxide.

Always be aware of the carbon monoxide detector expiration date and know how to test it. Replacing expired CO detectors is an essential step towards ensuring the continued safety of your home and loved ones.

Regular checks, timely replacements, and understanding how CO detectors work can make all the difference between safety and potential risks.

For expert installation, maintenance, or replacement of CO detectors, rely on our professional electricians at Premium Electric, where safety and expertise are our top priorities. You can rest assured that your home or business is safeguarded against the silent threat of carbon monoxide.

Call us today at 604-308-6195 or reach out to us by email.

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