Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas. It is produced by the incomplete burning of solid, liquid, and gaseous fuels. Appliances fueled with natural gas, liquefied petroleum (LP gas), oil, kerosene, coal, or wood may produce carbon monoxide. Burning charcoal produces carbon monoxide. Running cars produce carbon monoxide.

Every year, over 200 people in the United States die from carbon monoxide produced by fuel-burning appliances (furnaces, ranges, water heaters, room heaters). Others die from carbon monoxide produced while burning charcoal inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent. Still others die from carbon monoxide produced by cars left running in attached garages. Several thousand people go to the hospital emergency rooms for treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning.

Use the test button on your detector/alarm. In some units this will only test whether the circuitry is working. Check your manufacturer’s instructions, if your unit only tests the circuitry you may be able to buy a separate test kit, which tests the carbon monoxide sensor inside the alarm.

Carbon monoxide detectors/alarms are available for boats and recreational vehicles and should be used. Detectors/alarms are required in motor homes and towable recreational vehicles that have a generator or are prepped for a generator. For more information, check out the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission site at

Symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

Prevention tips:

  • Make sure appliances are installed according to manufacturer’s instructions and local building codes.
  • Have the heating system inspected and serviced annually.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector/alarm in the hallway near every separate sleeping area of the home.
  • 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 such as ranges, ovens, or clothes dryers for heating your home.
  • Never operate unvented fuel-burning appliances in any room with closed doors or windows or in any room where people are sleeping.
  • Do not use gasoline-powered tools and engines indoors. If use is unavoidable, ensure that adequate ventilation is available and place engine unit to exhaust outdoors.

What to do if you experience symptoms:

  • Get fresh air immediately
  • Open windows and doors for more ventilation
  • Turn off any combustion appliance and leave the house
  • Call 9-1-1 and report your symptoms
  • Contact your doctor immediately

What to do if your carbon monoxide detector/alarm sounds:

  • Never ignore the alarm
  • Operate the reset button
  • Call 9-1-1
  • Immediately move to fresh air outdoors or by an open door/window