Carbon Monoxide

Image of a boy asleep and a carbon monoxide alarm.Smoke alarms and CO alarms save lives.

It is the law in Ontario to have working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms in your house and cottage.

Find out what you need to do to Beat the Silent Killer.

Oakville Fire Chief Lee Grant explains the requirements for all homeowners in the Fire Marshals' Public Fire Safety Council YouTube video Ontario's New CO Alarm Law: A Call to Action for Homeowners.

Carbon monoxide alarms are now mandatory in all Ontario homes and cottages. The new regulation requires detectors near all sleeping areas in homes with fuel-burning appliances, such as furnaces, stoves or fireplaces. It also applies to all residences with attached garages. For more details open the Fire Marshals' Public Fire Safety Council (pdf 684 kB) information sheet on Ontario's new CO alarm law.

The only residences not affected by the regulation are those that are all electric and have no attached garages.

CO is a colorless, odourless, deadly gas that you cannot see, taste or smell. It can kill you before you know it's there. Today’s new energy-efficient home designs contribute to trapping CO-polluted air inside the home.

Fire departments will enforce the new regulation during home inspections for smoke detectors. Penalties for non-compliance are the same as those for failing to have a smoke detector. Tickets can be issued for $235 or charges could result in fines of up to $50,000 for individuals and $100,000 for companies.

If your CO alarm goes off, leave the building. If anyone is suffering the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning (i.e. dizziness, light-headedness, headaches, nausea or extreme fatigue), call 911 from a safe location. If the alarm sounds and no one is suffering the effects, call Fire Dispatch at 905-637-8253.

CO poisoning

Symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to those of the flu, and can include:

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Dizzy spells
  • Confusion

When you inhale CO, it combines with hemoglobin in your bloodstream. It will eventually remove enough oxygen from your system to cause suffocation, and can result in brain damage or death.

You may be suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning if you are experiencing the above symptoms and:

  • Other members of the household are also experiencing symptoms
  • You feel better when you are away from the house

To be sure, see a physician and request a carboxyhemoglobin test. This will determine the percentage of carbon monoxide present in your blood.

Carbon monoxide gas is a by-product of appliances such as:

  • Oil furnaces
  • Refrigerators
  • Clothes dryers
  • Water heaters
  • Fireplaces
  • Gas ranges
  • Non-electric space heaters

A clogged chimney or improper venting can also create CO gases.

CO Alarms

Electrically operated:

  • Easy to install – must be plugged into an outlet
  • Less maintenance
  • Don’t provide protection during a power outage
  • Take up to two days to recalibrate after power interruption

Battery operated:

  • Less expensive at initial purchase
  • Require more maintenance (must replace battery every two years)
  • Provide protection during a power failure
  • Easy to install in any location of the home

Look for the Underwriters Laboratories Canada (ULC) label when purchasing a CO alarm. The ULC mark guarantees that the product is tested in the areas of performance, safety and accuracy.

For more information contact:

Fire Prevention between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. call 905-338-4404.

For after-hours non-emergency fire inquiries, call 905-637-8253.

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