What Makes a Carbon Monoxide Detector Go Off?

Carbon monoxide is created when gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil or methane do not completely burn. Appliances or equipment that burn fuel are potential sources of carbon monoxide in the home. Carbon monoxide detectors save lives and some municipalities mandate them.

Cars produce carbon monoxide.

Silent Killer

Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless, colorless gas. It is called the silent killer. Motors running in a garage can produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. A furnace that is burning fuel incompletely and venting into your home can generate carbon monoxide levels that are toxic.


Carbon monoxide (CO) detectors have improved over early models. Sensors measure the CO in the air and activate an alarm when the CO reaches dangerous levels. When the alarm sounds, occupants should open doors and windows to clear the air of carbon monoxide and get people and pets outside into fresh air. Call the fire department to come and assess the CO danger in your home.


Carbon monoxide detectors are either battery-operated, hard-wired electric or plugged in to existing electrical outlets.


Electrochemical sensor detectors react to carbon monoxide and activate the alarm. This is the most common sensor used in residential detectors.


To be effective, carbon monoxide detectors need to be tested and maintained monthly. Fire protection experts recommend hard wiring detectors together, so when one alarm goes off, all alarms will sound.