Replace your carbon monoxide (CO) alarms before they expire

The Seattle Fire Department recently responded to three residences where a person called 9-1-1 after their CO alarm beeped intermittently. Upon further investigation it was discovered that there was no emergency but that the CO alarms in question were sounding every 30 seconds to indicate expiration.

CO alarm life span

CO alarms have a life expectancy of around seven years. All CO alarms produced after August 1, 2009, have an end-of-life warning notification that alerts the resident that the alarm should be replaced. The CO alarm will beep every 30 seconds or display ERR or END.

If a CO alarm is at its end-of-life, replacing the battery will not stop the beep. Some CO alarms have a feature that will silence the signal for 30 days, but this will not solve the issue as the CO alarm will continue to beep after the 30 day period ends.

What people should know

Homeowners should consider replacing all CO alarms that were installed in or before 2013. A CO alarm that signals that it’s at the end of its life should be replaced as well.

Renters should notify property managers or landlords immediately if their CO alarm is beeping every 30 seconds indicating its end-of-life. They should also know that intermittent beeping CO alarm is not reason to call 9-1-1.

A CO alarm that beeps continuously without stopping could indicate that carbon monoxide is present. If you your CO alarm is sounding continuously and you have signs of CO poisoning such as dizziness, headache, vomiting or flu like symptoms, find fresh air and call 9-1-1 immediately.

More information on carbon monoxide alarm requirements

In January of 2013, Washington State law (RCW 19.27.530) required CO alarms to be installed in new residences and in existing rental properties. Owner-occupied single-family residences, legally occupied before July 26, 2009, are not required to have CO alarms until they are sold or when a building permit application for interior remodeling is submitted.

State Building Code Council’s Carbon Monoxide Alarm page.

Seattle Fire Department’s CAM 5121 Carbon Monoxide Alarm Requirements in Residential Occupancies