Carbon Monoxide Detector Going Off – Causes and How to Fix

Carbon monoxide, you can’t see it, taste it, nor smell it, but it is deadly. But how can you tell if the CO detector is giving out a false alarm? In this article, I’ll give information about carbon monoxide detector going off – causes and how to fix them.

If your CO detector is becoming erratic, most probably, it is already expired. Most of the time, an expired CO detector causes false alarms. High moisture levels in your bathroom can also set off the CO detector. So, it should not be installed in areas where there’s so much production of steam.

Several other things can set off CO detector false alarm. Air leaks, gas appliances that are not functioning properly, and anything that may cause the entry of carbon monoxide inside your home can trigger the alarm of the CO detector.

Read on to learn more about the causes why carbon monoxide detectors go off and give false alarms and what you can do to fix the problem.

Carbon Monoxide Detector Going Off

Carbon Monoxide Detector Going Off

It is disconcerting to know that the carbon monoxide detector you are using in your home can give you false alarms. So, how can you be confident that it is indeed a false alarm and not the real thing?

CO Detector Nearing the End of Life Will Become Erratic

When a carbon monoxide detector is nearing the end of its life, it will become erratic. The majority of CO detector false alarms occur because of this. Additionally, excess moisture in your bathroom can also set off a CO false alarm. That’s why you should not use a CO detector in places where that amount of steam is excessive.

Malfunctioning Gas Appliances

Many other things can also cause CO detector false alarms. They can include malfunctioning gas appliances. These appliances can emit carbon monoxide when they are unable to use the right air to gas ratio.

If you use vented gas appliances, such as a combustion furnace, water heater, or dryer, carbon monoxide can creep unnoticed into your home. This will happen if there are duct leaks in the ducting system.

In Case of a Carbon Monoxide Threat

But if there is a real threat, you need to turn off all your appliances at once. And then allow the entry of fresh air immediately into your home by opening the windows and doors.

Then call an HVAC technician so they can trace the route that the carbon monoxide used in entering your home. Don’t turn on any appliance until the technician has finally eliminated the presence of carbon monoxide inside your home.

Causes of CO Detector False Alarms

It is truly a nuisance to have your CO detector beeping continuously without any reason. If the digital reader of your CO detector indicates “0,” this means it has not detected any amount of carbon monoxide in your surroundings.

But why does it beep and beep incessantly? Here are some reasons why the carbon monoxide detector goes off in the middle of the night:

1. Expired CO Detector

This is the usual cause of CO detector false alarms. It means the detector has already reached its expiration date. Once a detector reaches this stage, it becomes erratic. So, open the unit, and look at its ‘replace-by-date’ information to make sure that it has indeed reached its end.

2. Carbon Monoxide Has Seeped Into Your Home

It is also possible that all your appliances are working all right. The carbon monoxide detected by the CO detector seeped into your home from your neighbor. It may have seeped through the walls or floor of your home.

If your neighbor is using appliances that burn fuel, that’s the one that emits carbon monoxide. The CO might have escaped from your neighbor’s chimney stack. Then the CO gas entered your premises through a joint loft or similar adjoining part of the house.

3. Not an Alarm Sound

Perhaps the CO detector that you are using can produce different audible sounds that indicate several things. For instance, it may have a sound that means your battery charge is getting low, or the alarm has a fault or is malfunctioning.

The audible sound when carbon monoxide is detected is different from these other sounds. So, before using the CO detector, it is best first to read its user manual. In this way, you will be acquainted with its different audible sounds and what they mean. Keep this manual handy, so you will know what it means every time you hear the detector beeping.

4. Chargers for Lead Acid Batteries

If you or your neighbor uses a lead-acid battery charger, it can inadvertently produce hydrogen gas. This gas can also set off the alarm of the CO detector.

5. Presence of a Heavy Smoker

But what about a carbon monoxide detector going off but no gas appliances? Someone who is smoking heavily can also trigger the alarm of the CO detector. If a heavy smoker continuously smokes in a poorly ventilated room, and the room has a CO detector, it will eventually trigger the detector’s alarm.

6. Your Home Is Adjacent or Near a Busy Road

If your home is very near or even adjacent to a busy city street, you may experience high levels of CO inside your premises from time to time. This will be true, especially when your windows or doors are opened. When that happens, the alarm will be set off.

7. High Moisture Levels

A room with excessive moisture content, such as a bathroom, can easily set off the alarm of the CO detector. So, you should not install a CO detector in rooms where steam is produced.

The CO detector can give a false alarm if installed in a tent, a caravan, a boat, or any living quarter that is not suitable for its efficient operation. A CO detector can only be effective if installed in-home or office environments and not for caravanning or camping activities.

8. Fuel Burning Appliances

Appliances that burn fuel, such as ovens, boilers, and gas cookers, can trigger CO detector false alarms because of the gases that they can produce. Typically, these fuel-burning appliances only emit small traces of CO.

But there are times when they produce higher levels of CO, especially when there’s inadequate ventilation in the rooms where they are used. Maybe the venting is clogged or blocked by dirt and debris. In such cases, the CO detector’s alarm will be triggered.

9. Cheap CO Detector

A cheap carbon monoxide detector may not give you the best possible safety protection. Its alarm can be set off easily by hydrogen gas. Some people believe that huge amounts of petrol fumes can trigger the alarm system of cheap CO detectors.

So, if you are using a CO detector that you bought at a very low price, carefully read its user manual so you will be acquainted with what it can and cannot do. Otherwise, you will always be startled when it beeps deep into the night.

Again, what causes a carbon monoxide detector going off? Once a carbon monoxide detector goes off, it means it has detected harmful carbon monoxide levels. Improve the ventilation by opening all the windows and doors in your home. Then, call for an expert.

Preventing False Alarms

carbon monoxide detector going off but no gas appliances

It is frustrating to wake up in the middle of the night from the beeping of your CO detector and find that it is only a false alarm. There are many ways to prevent your CO detector from acting up falsely. These measures are related to the installation and maintenance of your CO detector:

1. Buy a CO Detector Known for Its Dependability

You are buying carbon monoxide to protect your family. It is not wise to depend on a cheap product for this purpose. Before purchasing a CO detector, read customer reviews about it and not just its manufacturer’s advertisements and promotional pitches.

2. Regularly Test the CO Detector

You need to test your CO detector regularly to see that it is working as it should. This will assure you that it will do its job when a situation requires it to do its job.

3. Clean It Once a Month

Regularly maintaining your CO detector will help it to function when it is needed. So, you need to clean it at least once a month. Use a portable vacuum cleaner with a soft brush attachment to clean its exterior.

You can also use compressed air in a can designed for computers to remove small dirt and dust from the internal parts of the detector. It has electronic components, so don’t use water to clean it.

4. Don’t Install the CO Detector Near Areas Prone to False Alarms

Your CO detector is giving you false alarms probably because you have installed it in an area conducive to conditions that activate it. What are these false alarm areas?

  • Places exposed to direct sunlight
  • Areas that are 10 feet from very humid areas such as sauna, shower, vaporizer, laundry room, dishwasher, humidifier, utility room, sauna, and other similar places.
  • Areas which are extremely dirty, greasy, and dusty such as furnace rooms, unfinished attics, crawl spaces and garages.
  • Places that are within 10 feet of cooking appliances, or in air passages near kitchens. The reason is that air streams can draw smoke from the kitchen into the smoke sensor of the CO detector and trigger the false alarm.
  • Garages, kitchens, and fireplaces that with poor ventilation.
  • Areas that are 20 feet from fireplaces, stoves, space heaters, water heaters and similar appliances. These places are sources of combustible particles that usually emit smoke and gases.

Warning Signs Your Carbon Monoxide Detector Is Going Bad

carbon monoxide detector going off intermittently

Before a CO detector goes bad, it manifests several symptoms. If the detector is experiencing the following symptoms, it will likely give you false alarms:

1. Chirps Once Every Minute

It chirps once every minute. Most CO detectors have a feature that allows them to produce chirps every minute. If your detector is doing this, you need to replace it.

2. Chirps Five Times Per Minute

The detector chirps five times per minute. If your CO detector does this, it means that it has already expired. You need to replace it.

3. Chirps Three Times Per Minute

It chirps three times per minute. This is a sign that your CO detector is malfunctioning. It means one or two of its components are no longer working efficiently. You need to replace the whole unit.

Relying on a Cheap CO Detector Is Not Wise

It is unsafe for your family if your carbon monoxide detector is constantly issuing a false alarm. This could mean you cannot depend on it because it can’t tell whether there’s an actual carbon monoxide intrusion into your home.

For instance, it is disconcerting when your CO detector goes off when you are not using any gas appliance. The carbon monoxide detector is going off, but no gas appliances are really strange. But it wouldn’t be if it is a cheap kind of CO detector.

Do not allow money to come between you and your family’s safety. Carbon monoxide poisoning is dangerous because it can kill silently. The only way to prevent it is by using a dependable CO detector, even if it is expensive.

Conclusion: Carbon Monoxide Detector Going Off

If you notice that your CO detector is becoming erratic, it is most probably nearing the end of its life. CO detectors have expiry dates. The most common reason they give false alarms is that they are at the end of their helpful service.

Additionally, high moisture levels in your bathroom can also set off a CO false alarm. You should not install this detector in rooms where high amounts of steam are generated.

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