New Mandates require Carbon Monoxide Alarms in residential Buildings January 2013

by Joshua Fant

Washington is taking another stand against the “silent killer,“ with new carbon monoxide (CO) legislation set to take effect statewide on January 1, 2013. At that time, Washington law requires owners to install CO alarms in all buildings classified as residential occupancies. These requirements bring Washington in line with many other states that have laws to protect people from CO poisoning.
The law applies to all residential properties, including apartment buildings and single-family homes, as well as hotels, motels and other spaces intended for inhabitance that contain carbon monoxide sources or are situated within structures that contain one or more sources of this poisonous gas. CO sources may include, but are not limited to, heaters, fireplaces, furnaces, appliances or cooking sources using coal, wood, petroleum products, or other fuels emitting CO as a by-product of combustion. Attached garages with doors, ductwork or ventilation shafts connected to a living space also are sources of CO. Under the new law, owners of residential occupancies are required to install, repair, maintain and test CO devices.
The January deadline for these new requirements is of particular importance, as more CO deaths occur during the winter months than any other time of year, due in part to increased use of fuel-burning sources to heat rooms, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
CO laws coupled with education and awareness will help reduce the number of accidental poisonings. Known as the “silent killer,“ CO poisoning is the number one cause of accidental poisoning in the United States–responsible for an average of 450 deaths and more than 20,000 emergency room visits each year. CO poisoning is notoriously difficult to diagnose–often until it’s too late.
The symptoms mimic those of many other illnesses and include nausea, headaches, dizziness, weakness, chest pain and vomiting. In more severe poisoning cases, people may experience disorientation or unconsciousness, or suffer long-term neurological disabilities, cardiorespiratory failure or death.
Under the new law, CO alarms must be located outside of each separate sleeping area, in the immediate vicinity of the bedroom. However, safety experts, like the NFPA, recommend that CO alarms also be installed on each level of the home, including the basement.  Local building code officials will verify compliance with the law when approving permit requests for new construction and most alterations, repairs or additions to dwellings.
The NFPA also recommends replacing alarms once they reach the end of the manufacturer’s suggested useful life or expiration date–an average of five to seven years. For building owners who already have alarms but may not know their age or condition, this new legislation serves as a reminder to update their properties accordingly creating added Protection for Tenants and Homeowners:

The following is an overview of the new regulations:

  • CO alarms must be located outside of each separate sleeping area, in the immediate vicinity of bedrooms.
  • Where a tenancy exists, the tenant must maintain the CO alarms as specified by the manufacturer, including the replacement of batteries.

Single-station CO alarms must be listed as complying with ANSI/ UL 2034 and be installed and maintained in accordance with NFPA 720 and the manufacturer’s instructions.

-Owner-occupied single-family residences legally occupied before July 26, 2009 are exempt from these requirements. However, for any owner-occupied single-family residence that is sold on or after July 26, 2009, the seller must equip the residence with carbon monox ide alarms in accordance with the requirements of the state building code before the buyer or any other person may legally occupy the resi dence following such sale.

-Individual sleeping units in R-1 and R-2 occupancies, which include col lege dormitories, hotels, boarding houses and residential treatment facility occupancies, that do not themselves contain a fuel-burning appliance, fuel-burning fireplace or an attached garage are exempt from these requirements, provided the following conditions are met: ¾ The unit is not adjacent to any room which contains a fuel burning appliance, fuel-burning fireplace or an attached garage.

-¾ The unit is not connected by duct work or ventilation shafts to any room containing a fuel-burning appliance, fuel-burning fireplace or an attached garage.

-¾ The building is provided with a common area CO alarm system.

As the most trusted and recognized brand name in home safety, First Alert is committed to educating the public about the dangers of fire and CO poisoning. For additional information on carbon monoxide safety, visit http:// For more detail on Washington’s CO alarm requirements, as well as how to detect and what to do in case of CO poisoning, visit the Washington State Department of Health website, at http:// HomeSafety/Contaminants/CarbonMonoxide.aspx. u


Information provided by The Rental Housing Association of Puget Sound.