Reminder: Install CO Alarms or Detectors by Dec. 27
As we enter the last quarter of 2022, we remind you of Housing Notice H-2022-01 issued early this year, which requires carbon monoxide (CO) alarms or detectors in HUD-assisted housing programs starting Dec. 27, 2022. The requirement applies to units covered under Public Housing, Project Based Rental Assistance, Housing Choice Vouchers, Project-Based Vouchers, Section 202, and Section 811 with fire-fueled or fire-burning appliances or an attached garage.
The CO alarms or detectors that you install must meet or exceed the International Fire Code (IFC) 2018 standards, which are outlined in Chapter 9 (fire protections and life safety systems) and Chapter 11 (construction requirements for existing buildings) of the IFC. The IFC defines CO alarms and detectors as follows:
- CO alarm: A single or multiple station alarm intended to detect carbon monoxide gas and alert occupants by a distinct audible signal. It incorporates a sensor, control components, and an alarm notification appliance in a single unit.
- CO detector: A device with an integral sensor to detect carbon monoxide gas and transmit an alarm signal to a connected alarm control unit.
Hard-wire requirements. According to the IFC, CO alarms must receive their primary power from the building’s permanent wiring without a disconnecting switch other than that required for overcurrent protection, and when the primary power service is interrupted, serviced by a battery [Section 915.4.1, Power Source]. In other words, CO alarms or detectors need to be hard-wired and have a battery backup.
Installation locations. Fuel-burning appliances emit CO as a byproduct of the combustion of coal, kerosene, oil, wood, fuel gases, or other petroleum or hydrocarbon products. These can include gas/fuel-fired ranges, stoves, fireplaces, clothes dryers, furnaces, air handlers, boilers, and water heaters. Section 915 and Section 1103.9 of the IFC describe the situations when a CO detector or alarm is required in units and buildings. Here are the requirements for building designs typically found in HUD-assisted housing:
- “Carbon Monoxide Detection shall be installed in dwelling units that contain a fuel-burning appliance or fuel-burning fireplace” [IFC – Chapter 9, Section 915.1.2 – Locations].
- “Carbon Monoxide detection shall be included in any dwelling units with attached private garages” [IFC, Chapter 9, Section 915.1.5 Private Garages].
- “Carbon Monoxide detectors shall be installed in dwelling units outside each sleeping area and in the immediate vicinity of the bedroom. If a fuel-burning appliance is installed in the bedroom, a CO detector must be installed in the bedroom” [Section 915.2.1].
Exceptions. According to the IFC, CO detection isn’t required in dwelling units that don’t have openings between the fuel-burning appliance or underground garage and the dwelling unit [Section 915.1.4, Fuel Burning Appliance outside of dwelling units]. This means that if you have a central heating or hot water system that doesn’t distribute heat via forced hot air, CO detection isn’t specifically required in the dwelling units. Or it may be the case that a CO detector is installed in required locations between the fuel-burning appliance and the dwelling units. In this case, you would have to have CO detection between a boiler or water heater and a dwelling unit in the mechanical rooms, and any garages.
Educate Residents on CO Poisoning
HUD’s notice encourages owners to inform residents of carbon monoxide (CO) risks and provide examples of CO avoidance. While CO poisoning is usually caused by faulty heating systems, it can also be caused by things that residents bring into their apartments, such as kerosene heaters and charcoal grills. Especially during power outages caused by natural disasters such as hurricanes, residents may bring portable generators and camp stoves into their homes. And these can emit enough CO to cause severe injury and death when they’re used indoors or on porches where there isn’t enough ventilation.
You can help reduce the risk of CO poisoning at your site by relaying to residents the effects that CO can have on their health, telling them the symptoms of CO poisoning, and giving them tips for preventing a dangerous buildup of CO in their unit.
The EPA offers downloadable brochures and fact sheets that you can post and make available for residents in site newsletters and bulletins. You can find these at www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/protect-your-family-and-yourself-carbon-monoxide-poisoning. The following are a few important CO safety tips to share with your residents:
- Don't use a gas oven to heat your unit, even for a short time.
- Don't ever use a charcoal grill indoors—even in a fireplace.
- Don't sleep in a room with an unvented gas or kerosene space heater.
- Don't ignore carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms, particularly if more than one person is feeling them. Symptoms include, at moderate levels, severe headaches, dizziness, confusion, nausea, or fainting. Low levels of carbon monoxide poisoning can cause shortness of breath, mild nausea, and mild headaches, and may have longer-term effects on your health. Because the symptoms are similar to those of the flu, food poisoning, or other illnesses, it is often misdiagnosed.
- If you experience symptoms that might be from carbon monoxide poisoning, get fresh air immediately. Open doors and windows, turn off combustion appliances, and leave the unit. Go to an emergency room and tell the physician that you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning.