Carbon Monoxide Information

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Carbon Monoxide Alarms Required as of February 1, 2011

The City of Janesville would like to remind homeowners, tenants and landlords of one and two family homes that new statewide legislation regarding requirements for carbon monoxide alarms has been enacted. The State of Wisconsin requires as of February 1, 2011, all residential dwellings to have carbon monoxide alarms. Alarms must be installed in basements and on each floor level. Attics, garages and storage areas are exempt from this code. There is existing legislation regarding commercial property containing residential units that has been in place since 2008.

Fire service professionals recommend carbon monoxide alarms be placed near sleeping areas. Smoke detectors must be replaced every 10 years and carbon monoxide alarms replaced every 5 years to ensure the devices are in working order; batteries should be replaced every six months. In addition, each detector should be tested regularly per manufacturer's recommendations.

Specifics about these new requirements may be found on a fact sheet from the Department of Commerce and a brochure developed by the City . For questions, call Neighborhood Services at 755-3052, Fire Department at 755-3050 or Building Services at 755-3060.

The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in America. Burning any fuel produces carbon monoxide. According to the American Medical Association (AMA), nearly 1,500 people die annually due to accidental carbon monoxide exposure, and an additional 10,000 seek medical attention. The purpose of this information is to answer frequently asked questions about carbon monoxide and to help you prevent accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.

What is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a flammable, colorless, odorless, tasteless toxic gas produced during incomplete combustion of fuel. Improperly operating appliances can produce fatal CO concentrations in homes. High levels of CO intake replace the oxygen in our blood and can cause unconsciousness and death.

How Does CO Enter The Home?

Carbon monoxide can escape from any fuel-burning appliance, furnace, water heater, fireplace, woodstove or space heater. Carbon monoxide can spill from vent connections in poorly maintained or blocked chimneys. A nest or other materials can block the flue and CO will spill back into the house. Improperly sized flues connected to new high-efficiency furnaces and water heaters can also contribute to CO spillage.

What Are The Symptoms Of CO Poisoning?

The initial symptoms of CO are similar to the flu. They include:

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Irregular Breathing 

The danger of CO poisoning is that the gas is odorless, colorless, and tasteless and therefore often goes undetected. If you have any of these symptoms and you feel better when you are outside of your home you may have CO poisoning.

What To Do If Experiencing CO Poisoning Symptoms?

If you think you are experiencing any of the symptoms of CO poisoning, get fresh air immediately. Open windows and doors for ventilation, turn off any combustion appliances, and leave the home. Call the Fire Department immediately and contact medical services. Prompt medical attention is important if you are experiencing any symptoms of CO poisoning.

What Are Some Signs Of CO Poisoning In My Home?

There are several clues that are visible and several that you can not see. These include:

  • Rusting or water streaking on vent/chimney
  • Loose or missing furnace panel
  • Sooting
  • Loose or disconnected chimney connections
  • Debris or soot falling from chimney
  • Moisture inside of windows
  • Internal appliance damage
  • Hidden blockage or damage in chimneys
  • Decreasing hot water supply
  • Furnace unable to heat house
  • Soot on appliances
  • Unfamiliar or burning odor

Prevention Measures

There are several measures that can prevent and/or detect CO poisoning. You should make sure appliances are installed according to manufacturer?s instructions and local building codes. Most appliances should be installed by professionals and inspected and serviced annually. Chimneys and flues should be checked for blockages, corrosion, partial and complete disconnections, and loose connections. The installation of a carbon monoxide detector can provide added protection and should be used in addition to prevention measures.

Other Prevention Tips:

  • Never burn charcoal inside a home, garage, vehicle, or tent.
  • Never use portable fuel-burning camping equipment inside a home, garage, vehicle, or tent.
  • Never leave a car running in an attached garage, even with the garage door open.
  • Never service fuel-burning appliances without proper knowledge, skills, and tools.
  • Never use gas appliances for heating your home.
  • Do not use gasoline-powered tools and engines indoors.

This information was obtained from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. More information can be found on the US CPSC web site,, or by calling the CPSC hotline at 1-800-638-2772.