Carbon Monoxide Alarms

CONSUMER’S GUIDE TO CARBON MONOXIDE ALARMS

The 2006 legislative session passed a new carbon monoxide (CO) law (MN 299F.50) requiring CO alarms in all single family homes and multifamily apartment units. Effective January 1, 2007, all newly constructed single family homes and multi-family dwelling units for which building permits are issued on or after January 1, 2007 shall be provided with approved carbon monoxide alarms. Effective August 1, 2008, all existing single family homes shall be equipped with approved carbon monoxide alarms. Effective August 1, 2009, all other multi-family or apartment dwelling units shall be provided with approved CO alarms. All carbon monoxide alarms must be certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory that conform to the latest Underwriters Laboratories (U/L) Standards (also known as UL 2034 Standards).

Who Is Impacted by this Law?

Generally speaking, anyone who owns residential property regardless of size (i.e., 1- & 2-family homes, multifamily buildings, apartments, condominiums and townhouses, etc.) that contains fossil burning fuel equipment (i.e., oil, gas, wood, coal, etc.) OR contains enclosed parking (i.e., attached or enclosed garage), is required to install CO alarms by August 1st, 2008. In certain limited instances (see below), the installation requirements are deferred until January 1, 2007.

What Do I Have to Do?

Install CO alarms on every level of your home except for basements and attics that do not have habitable living spaces (i.e., family rooms, dens, etc.) by August 1, 2008.

What Kinds of CO Alarms Are Allowed?

There are several types of alarms that are allowed; they include:
* Battery powered with battery monitoring;
* Plug-in (AC powered) units with battery backup;
* AC primary power (hard-wired-usually involves hiring an electrician) with battery backup;
* Low-voltage or wireless alarms; and
* Qualified combination smoke detectors and CO alarms.

What Are Qualified Combination Detectors and Alarms?

Acceptable combination smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms must have simulated voice and tone alarms that clearly distinguish between the two types of emergencies. If you have questions about various types of smoke detectors, contact the Building Department at (507) 934-0662.

What Am I Required to Do If I’m a Landlord?

Landlords must install CO alarms in each dwelling unit. Landlords must inspect, test and maintain the CO alarms at least once a year or at the beginning of any rental period (such as lease renewal). Batteries are required to be replaced once a year. Tenants should report any problems with alarms to the landlord immediately and learn to recognize the difference between the smoke detector and the carbon monoxide alarm.

Where Do I Have To Put These CO Alarms?

In most residences, carbon monoxide alarms are required to be located on every level of a home or dwelling unit including habitable portions of basements and attics. On levels with sleeping areas, the alarms must be placed within ten feet of the bedroom doors.

CO alarms do not go inside garages, but in the adjacent living areas.

Why Do I Have To Do This?

Carbon monoxide (CO), known as the Invisible Killer, is a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas that results from incomplete burning of fuels such as natural gas, propane, oil, wood, coal, and gasoline. Each year, many people die from accidental CO poisoning and thousands more are injured. This law was passed to protect all of us from the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.

How Can I Tell if a CO Alarm Is Approved?

CO alarms are approved by an independent testing company such as Underwriters’ Laboratories (UL).  Be sure to look for the approval label when buying CO alarms. Most of the CO alarms currently sold do meet these standards but it is a good idea to check and make sure they meet the standard before you purchase the alarms.

How Do I Meet the Requirements of the Law?

If you install CO alarms on every habitable level by August 1, 2008 and keep them in good working order, you don’t have to do anything else to be in compliance with the law. Contact the Building Department at (507) 934-0662 if you need further assistance.

How Do I Know if I Have CO Poisoning?

The first symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to the flu (but without the fever).
They include:
* Headache
* Fatigue
* Shortness of breath
* Nausea
* Dizziness

If you think you have symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning or your CO alarm is sounding, leave the building immediately, and call 911.

For more information about the requirements of the law, contact the City Building Department, or visit the Minnesota Department of Fire Services website at www.dps.state.mn.us.