Common Causes for a Carbon Monoxide Detector’s Sudden Alarm

Published on: December 9, 2013

When it comes to your family’s health and safety, being informed about carbon monoxide couldn’t be more important. The ill effects that result from being exposed range from flu-like symptoms to death. Carbon monoxide cannot be seen or smelled, making it a truly insidious killer. Because it could be poisoning your air without you knowing it, it is vital to equip your home with carbon monoxide detectors. A detector is necessary and can go a long way in helping you keep the air in your home safe. But because many of them are designed to register lower amounts of carbon monoxide, the alarm may go off for a number of reasons. Find out what the most common causes carbon monoxide detectors go off are, when it may be serious and what you can do to prevent dangerous levels of this “silent killer” from entering your home.

Common Alarm Triggers for Carbon Monoxide Detectors

The following are common issues that may make your detector go off, as well as simple solutions for prevention:

  1. Operating gas powered equipment or vehicles within the home or the garage. This is something you should never do as it allows gas easy access to flow throughout your house, even if you have your garage door open.
  2. Not enough fresh air ventilating throughout the home. This can be remedied by having an HVAC contractor install a fresh air ventilation system.
  3. Cooking on a charcoal grill inside the home or garage. While barbecued food may taste good, charcoal grills can produce a high volume of carbon monoxide fumes. Keep the grilling well away from your living space.
  4. Faulty equipment or appliances in the home. All gas operated equipment should be well maintained and you should have them inspected regularly. Anything that runs on fuel will release some degree of carbon monoxide into your home, but with proper care that amount can be kept to acceptable levels.
  5. Overly sensitive or malfunctioning carbon monoxide detector. Make sure you only fit your home with UL listed detectors that adhere to the UL standard 2034 for the most recent June 1995 revision. The requirements stated in the revision have resulted in a reduction of the problems older models have been known to have.

While most of the above problems can be easily avoided, there are more serious problems that can cause your detector to sound. These triggers often occur unpredictably and can’t really be avoided, but should be dealt with immediately. Examples of those causes include:

  • A clogged chimney
  • A malfunctioning furnace or water heater
  • A cracked heating exchanger
  • Gas powered equipment near a fresh air vent to your home
  • A car running inside your garage

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Exposure

Should your alarm go off, it’s important to know what the typical symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure are. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, these symptoms can differ significantly based on a person’s general health and age as well as the length of time and the amount of carbon monoxide exposure. Higher concentrations can be fatal. The following are some of the common symptoms you could experience:

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain (in those with heart disease)
  • Confusion
  • Impaired vision and coordination

What To Do If Your Carbon Monoxide Detector Goes Off

If the alarm sounds, don’t panic. The first thing you should ask yourself and everyone in the home is if they are experiencing any symptoms (dizziness, nausea, headaches, etc.). If nobody says they are feeling ill then you probably won’t need to call 911. In this case, you should turn off any gas powered appliances and equipment, and ventilate your house. Then try to reset your detector. If it won’t reset or it goes off again, contact a qualified HVAC contractor so your system can be properly and thoroughly inspected for any issues.

On the other hand, if anyone is experiencing any symptoms (or the symptoms start before a contractor comes out to examine your system), everyone should evacuate your house immediately. Once outside in the fresh air, contact 911 on a cell phone or a neighbor’s phone.

Do you need more information on carbon monoxide detectors? Please feel free to contact us at AirConditioningSoutheast.com to find a contractor in your part of the Southeast United States today.