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It’s official. As of Wednesday, homes in Ontario with a garage, fireplace or any fuel-burning appliances are required by law to install a carbon monoxide detector, or else face a hefty $50,000 fine. And businesses that don’t comply could face up to $100,000 in penalties.

We suppose we’ve had plenty of time to prepare — the law was actually passed last October, and only came into effect this week. And really, the safety and well-being of your family should be a good enough reason to invest…right?

After all, there’s no real other way to detect carbon monoxide than via a detector. It’s colourless and odourless, and can whip through your home from something as simple as leaving the car running in the garage or via a hidden leak in your gas stove or hot water heater. And yes, it’s poisonous.

In severe cases carbon monoxide can cause brain damage and death. In less severe cases it can cause flu-like symptoms such as headaches, nausea and dizziness. And kids are even more susceptible to it than adults.

So where do you purchase a detector? There are several different kinds out there available at home stores like Canadian Tire and Home Depot that fit various household needs. You can get a dual version with a fire alarm, portable builds for on-the-road travelling, the plug-in kind to avoid changing batteries and even ones that talk to you. If you’re into that sort of thing. Whatever one you settle on, it should be replaced every five-to-10 years, regardless if it’s still working, just to be safe.

According to Consumer Search, there are several key components your model should have:

  • A loud alarm that can be heard within at least 10 feet
  • Alarms with inter-connectivity if you have a large home, so that if one alarm triggers the network knows
  • Voice alert for dual models, so you know exactly what’s going on in an emergency situation
  • A five-year sensor lifespan
  • Digital display, with back lighting where possible
  • A testing functionality, which should be used monthly

Once you’ve settled on your model, it’s recommended to have at least one detector on each floor. While your first instinct will be to place the detector near the furnace or other appliances, it’s actually best by the bedroom where you will hear it first while you’re sleeping. Then during the day whenever you walk by, take a quick look to make sure the digital reading is at zero. If it’s not you know something’s up.

In that case, turn off all of your appliances at once, open all doors and windows and head outside to call a qualified technician. If anyone is experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms, however, be sure to call the fire department immediately.

For more info on the new law, and carbon monoxide poisoning, head over to the official government website.