CO Alarms


Carbon monoxide (CO) alarm requirements for multi-family homes, including Assisted Living, are currently in effect. How this applies to your community will depend on the building’s construction details, the type of device(s) used, and the local building instructor.

CO Alarm Requirements in Brief

Most existing Assisted Living communities are R occupancies and have some type of fossil fuel-generating device (gas water heater, gas stove, gas fireplace, etc.) in the building. These are the two triggers for the carbon monoxide alarm requirement. When these triggers are hit, a CO alarm is required in each resident unit near the bedroom and in the area near the fossil fuel-generating device (with exceptions listed below). This applies even if there are no fossil fuel-burning appliances in the unit itself. Your local fire inspector is not the enforcement authority and cannot uphold an STD 850 fire clearance due to CO issues.

The device used must comply with UL 2034 (lab-testing standard) and be approved by the Office of the State Fire Marshall (OSFM). A plug-in, battery-operated alarm or one that is installed on the ceiling is allowed. For hearing-impaired residents, a visual alarm similar to the fire alarm strobe requirement is required according to the NFPA 720 . Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation and maintenance.

Existing Dwellings or Sleeping Units

CO alarms are required in existing dwellings or sleeping units by January 1, 2013 unless repairs or alterations of more than $1000 are being made, in which case the building must come into compliance with Section 420.4.2 at that point.

Existing R Occupancies (most CALA member communities are R2.1 occupancies) located in a building with a fossil fuel-burning heater or appliance, fireplace, or attached garage shall have single station CO alarms. An open parking garage, as defined in the CA Building Code, or an enclosed garage ventilated in accordance with the CA Mechanical Code, is not deemed to be an “attached garage.” A CO alarm must be located outside of each separate dwelling unit or sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedroom(s) and on every level of a dwelling unit, including basements. Exceptions apply when the sleeping unit or dwelling unit is:

  1. located more than one story above or below any story that contains a fuel-burning appliance or attached garage; and
  2. not connected by duct work or ventilation shafts to any room containing a fuel-burning appliance or to an attached garage; and
  3. located in a building equipped with a common area CO detection system, CO detector, or combination detector in the same space as permanently installed fuel burning appliance(s).

The CO alarms must comply with UL 2034 and be installed and maintained in accordance with NFPA 720 and manufacturer’s instructions. They may be solely battery operated or plug-in type with battery back-up in areas where no construction is taking place.

Power Supply: CO alarms shall receive their primary power from the building wiring where such wiring is served from a commercial source, and shall be equipped with battery back-up. Exceptions in existing dwelling units permit a CO alarm to be solely battery operated or plug-in with battery backup:

  1. when there is no commercial power supply; or
  2. where repairs or alterations do not result in the removal of wall and ceiling finishes; or
  3. where repairs or alterations are limited to the exterior surfaces of dwellings, such as the replacement of roofing or siding, or the addition or replacement of windows, doors, or the addition of a porch or deck; or
  4. when work is limited to the installation, alteration or repair of plumbing or mechanical systems or the installation, alteration or repair of electrical systems which do not result in the removal of interior wall or ceiling finishes exposing the structure.

Interconnection: When more than one alarm is required within the dwelling unit or within a sleeping unit, the alarm shall be interconnected. Exceptions in existing dwelling or sleeping units permit CO alarms not to be interconnected:

  1. where repairs do not result in the removal of a wall and ceiling finishes and no previous method for interconnection existed; or
  2. where no construction is taking place; or
  3. where repairs or alterations are limited to the exterior surfaces of dwellings, such as the replacement of roofing or siding, or the addition or replacement of windows or doors, or the addition of a porch or deck; or
  4. when work is limited to the installation, alteration or repair of plumbing or mechanical systems, or the installation, alteration or repair of electrical systems, which do not result in the removal of interior wall or ceiling finishes exposing the structure.

New Construction

Buildings containing a fuel-burning appliance or an attached garage shall be equipped with single station CO alarms. An open parking garage, as defined in the CA Building Code, or an enclosed garage ventilated in accordance with the CA Mechanical Code, is not deemed to be an “attached garage.” CO alarms are required outside of each separate dwelling unit or sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedroom(s) and on every level of a dwelling unit, including basements (see exceptions below).

CO alarms are NOT required in sleeping units or dwelling units that do not contain a fuel-burning appliance but are located in a building with a fuel-burning appliance or attached garage when the sleeping or dwelling unit is:

  1. located more than one story above or below any story that contains a fuel-burning appliance or attached garage; and
  2. not connected by duct work or ventilation shafts to any room containing a fuel-burning appliance or to an attached garage; and
  3. located in a building equipped with a common area CO detection system that includes all enclosed common area spaces.

The CO alarms must comply with UL 2034 and be installed and maintained in accordance with NFPA 720 and manufacturer’s instructions.

Power Supply: CO alarms shall receive primary power from the building wiring, where such wiring is served from a commercial source, and be equipped with a battery back-up. Where there is no commercial power supply, battery operated alarms are allowed.

Interconnection: Where more than one CO alarm is required within the dwelling unit or sleeping unit, the alarm shall be interconnected in a manner that activation of one alarm shall activate all of the alarms in the individual unit.

Resources

Search for OSFM-approved CO alarms
OSFM Information Bulletin on CO Alarm Requirements
Amended Building Code (Title 24, Part 2)

This page written in collaboration with CALA member Doug Pancake of Douglas Pancake Architects .