State Requirements for Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Safety Team
Updated Feb 19, 2021
5 min read
CO detectors are easy to install, relatively inexpensive and proven to save lives. What are the carbon monoxide detector laws in your state and what can you do to safeguard yourself and your family?

An NBC News investigation found that 13 public housing residents have died of carbon monoxide poisoning since 2003. Carbon monoxide detectors are not currently required in public housing. The number of deaths may be higher because the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) does not keep an official tally of carbon monoxide deaths.

Since the report came out, HUD has agreed to provide $5 million in funding for carbon monoxide detectors in public housing. Fearing delays that could put more lives at risk, legislators led by California Senator Kamala Harris, recently unveiled a bill that would make carbon monoxide detectors mandatory in federally subsidized public housing. 

CO detectors are easy to install, relatively inexpensive and proven to save lives. What are the carbon monoxide detector laws in your state and what can you do to safeguard yourself and your family?

What is Carbon Monoxide and Why is it Dangerous?

Carbon monoxide is known as a silent killer because it’s a deadly colorless, tasteless and odorless gas. According to OSHA, “CO is a common industrial hazard resulting from the incomplete burning of material containing carbon such as natural gas, gasoline, kerosene, oil, propane, coal, or wood.”

Common source of CO around the home are:

  • Gas space heaters
  • Furnaces and chimneys
  • Back-drafting
  • Gas stoves
  • Generators and other gasoline-powered equipment
  • Automobile exhaust from attached garages

CO emissions can potentially be dangerous in the summer, too. There are claims that a malfunctioning air conditioner can create CO emissions that as of now, are inconclusive. But it’s worth being careful until more studies are conducted.

The American Council on Science and Health explains why carbon monoxide is so dangerous: “Carbon monoxide loves to stick (bind) to iron. This also means that it also loves to bind to hemoglobin, the iron-based protein that is responsible for distributing oxygen throughout the body. The affinity of CO to hemoglobin is so strong that the gas binds 240 times more tightly to than does oxygen.” 

What this means is that carbon monoxide doesn’t just compete with oxygen for free hemoglobin, it actually displaces oxygen - effectively inhibiting your body’s ability to distribute oxygen. That’s why it can kill a person in less than three minutes. 

What are the Symptoms of CO Poisoning?

Nighthawk Carbon Monoxide AlarmSome people don’t experience symptoms before they die or pass from poisoning while they sleep. The most common symptoms to look out for are:

  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness

What are the Most Common Sources of Carbon Monoxide Emissions?

Around the house, heating sources and vehicles are the most common sources of CO. January is the deadliest month as people look to heat their homes during one of the coldest months of the year. Common sources of household CO include:

  • Gas space heaters
  • Furnaces and chimneys
  • Back-drafting
  • Gas stoves
  • Generators and other gasoline-powered equipment
  • Automobile exhaust from attached garages

CO emissions can potentially be dangerous in the summer, too. There are claims that a malfunctioning air conditioner can create CO emissions that as of now, are inconclusive. But it’s worth being careful until more studies are conducted.

10 Steps to Prevent CO Poisoning 

OSHA and the CDC say that CO poisoning can be prevented if you follow these steps:

1) Install battery-powered CO detectors on every floor of your home.

2) Change the batteries every 6 months.

3) Schedule a qualified technician to annually service your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil, or coal-burning home devices.

4) Keep air vents and flues free of debris that can block ventilation lines.

5) Never run a generator, or any gasoline-powered engine inside your home, garage or basement, even if the windows and doors are open.

6) Never run a generator, motor vehicle, pressure washer, or any gasoline-powered engine, even if outdoors, if it’s less than 20 feet from an open window, door, or vent. Exhaust can enter into your home.

7) Never use an oil lantern, charcoal grill, hibachi, or portable camping stove inside your home, camper or tent.

8) Use tools and heating appliances powered by electricity or compressed air instead.

9) Never leave your vehicle’s motor running in the garage or any partially enclosed space.

10) If you suspect CO poisoning, call 911 and go outside for fresh air while you wait.

Carbon Monoxide Detector Laws By State













































What happens if you live in a rental before the state-mandated date requiring CO detectors? Are landlords required by state law to install them?

Landlords are required to install CO detectors if state laws mandate detectors.  If your landlord hasn’t installed one, contact your local housing authority. New York City tenant attorney Samuel E. Goldberg of GLNYLAW.COM says, “The Tenant should call 311 (for New York) and schedule an inspection date for a Housing Preservation Department (HPD) inspector to inspect the tenant’s apartment and issue a violation.” 

Even if the law is recent, many states have worded their carbon monoxide detector laws to include the retrofitting of CO detectors to include dwellings before the law’s effective date. If in doubt, contact your landlord and ask. If there are no CO detector requirements for your area but you would feel more comfortable with one installed, ask your landlord if they would install one. 

If the landlord does not want to fit your home with a detector because they’re not legally obligated, you can buy one yourself or contact the following to ask if they have a free carbon monoxide detector program:

  • Your local fire department may have a free carbon monoxide detector program
  • Select United Way chapters
  • States like New Hampshire have a free CO detector program

Regardless of state law, it’s a good idea to install at least one carbon monoxide detector in your home. There are many affordable models available that can save your life. Install at least one on every floor of your home, including the basement and garage. Place them near bedrooms so you’ll hear their warning should there be a CO leak. Investing a couple of hours of your time to install CO detectors will protect your family against this silent killer and give you peace of mind that’s priceless. 

While different manufacturers recommend various different mounting locations, it’s important to follow their recommendations. We have tips on how to properly install and place CO detectors in your home, here


Home Security Experts

Safety Team

The Safety Team is a group of experts that handle provider research, product reviews and recalls to make your home safety and security search as easy as 1-2-3.

Like what you've read?

Share it with your friends