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Carbon Monoxide Law in California

Questions & Answers:

  1. What is the law in California for homes?
  2. What is the law in California for Apartments, Dormitories, Nursing homes, Condominiums and Hospitals?
  3. What is the law in California for Hotels and Motels?
  4. What is Senate Bill No. 183 (SB-183)?
  5. Where can I go to receive further information on Carbon Monoxide?
  6. How is a dwelling unit defined in CA?
  7. Is a duplex defined as a single family dwelling?
  8. Are multi-story dwellings such as condos and apartments with attached garages with no direct access to the dwelling unit and no fossil fuel appliances required to have a CO alarm?
  9. Is a CO alarm or detector required in two story apartment buildings equipped with electric appliances but the building also has a common hallway with fossil fuel central heat?
  10. What is the difference between a carbon monoxide detector and alarm?
  11. How many types of CO devices are available?
  12. Do CO safety devices need to be approved by the State Fire Marshal?
  13. Where can I find a list of CSFM listed carbon monoxide alarms and detectors?
  14. How can I obtain a full listing of the California State Fire Marshall (CSFM) listed CO devices?
  15. What can I do to check updated listings?
  16. If I have a CO device that is not listed by the State Fire Marshal prior to the law, can they maintain it or does it have to be replaced?
  17. Does CA expect to require a 10 year non-replaceable battery for combination smoke/CO alarm?
  18. What are the effective dates for installing CO devices in various structures in CA?
  19. Where should I install my CO alarm?
  20. Are CO devices that are required by SB-183 to be installed in each bedroom?
  21. What is the best location and height should a CO device be mounted?
  22. Can I replace my existing smoke detector with a carbon monoxide device?
  23. What agency is responsible for enforcing the CO installation requirements?
  24. How do governments enforce the CO alarm requirements?
  25. Who may I contact for additional information?

1. What is the law in California for homes?

The Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act (Senate Bill- SB 183) requires all single-family homes in CA with an attached garage or a fossil fuel source to install carbon monoxide alarms or detectors within the home.  The effective date for this requirement was July 1, 2011. 

2.What is the law in California for Apartments, Dormitories, Nursing homes, Condominiums and Hospitals?

According to SB 183, the owners of multi-family properties that rent or lease apartments or condos in CA are required to comply with the law by January 1, 2013.

3.What is the law in California for Hotels and Motels?

According to SB 1394, all hotels and motels in CA are required to have a CO alarm or detector by January 1, 2016.

4.What is Senate Bill No. 183 (SB-183)?

CA State Senator Alan Lowenthal of Long Beach authored SB-183 in 2009 but it was vetoed by former Governor Schwarzenegger in 2009 but passed in 2010.  The Law, SB 183 also known as the “Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act” requires that a carbon monoxide (CO) safety device be installed in all dwelling units intended for human occupancy.

5.Where can I go to receive further information on Carbon Monoxide?

For more information about carbon monoxide you can go to QGinc.com, CPSC.gov fire.ca.gov/communications/communications_firesafety_carbonmonoxide.php fire.ca.gov/communications/downloads/fact_sheets/CarbonMonoxide.pdf

6.How is a dwelling unit defined in CA?

“A dwelling unit is defined as a single-family dwelling, duplex, lodging house, dormitory, hotel, motel, condominium, time-share project, or dwelling unit in a multiple-unit dwelling unit building”.

7.Is a duplex defined as a single family dwelling?

No. A duplex is not considered a single family dwelling by definition.

8.Are multi-story dwellings such as condos and apartments with attached garages with no direct access to the dwelling unit and no fossil fuel appliances required to have a CO alarm?

Yes, because SB 183 requires that CO alarms or detectors be installed in all multi-unit occupancies if there is either an attached garage or any fuel burning appliance.  The reason for this is that people have been killed in dwellings without direct access from the garage to the living area because the CO from the garage traveled through small openings and ventilation systems into the dwelling.

9.Is a CO alarm or detector required in two story apartment buildings equipped with electric appliances but the building also has a common hallway with fossil fuel central heat?

Yes. SB 183 requires that CO alarms must be installed when fossil fuel appliances are used anywhere in the building including water heater, pool heater boilers and fireplaces.  The reason is that people can be killed from CO, which enters the dwelling or apartment from anywhere including ventilation.

10.What is the difference between a carbon monoxide detector and alarm?

A carbon monoxide alarm is a standalone unit, which is tested to Underwriters Laboratory (UL) Standard 2034.  It can be hardwired with battery backup or just battery operated.  It always has a sound making device within it.   These CO alarms are typically installed in single family dwellings and apartments.  A carbon monoxide detector is a system unit connected to a central panel.  All system CO detectors are tested to UL Standard 2075.  These units are more expensive and more sophisticated.  In a large building some can be addressable giving a person monitoring the building panel the unit or room number where the alarm first occurs.  These system CO detectors are designed to be used with a security or fire panel.  These units can be hardwired or wireless.  The wireless units are typical battery operated.

11.How many types of CO devices are available?

In CA, as elsewhere, there are just alarms and detectors available; however, in CA they fall under either California State Fire Marshall (CSFM) category # 5276 for CO alarms or CSFM category # 5278 for CO detectors.

12.Do CO safety devices need to be approved by the State Fire Marshal?

Yes, in CA but not in other states. The California Law SB-183 forbids the sale, marketing or distribution of CO alarms and detectors unless it is approved and listed by the State Fire Marshal.

13.Where can I find a list of CSFM listed carbon monoxide alarms and detectors?

Please click on the following CSFM website link below:
http://osfm.fire.ca.gov/strucfireengineer/pdf/bml/CSFM%20listed%20carbon%20monoxide%20devices.pdf This website is updated periodically.

14.How can I obtain a full listing of the California State Fire Marshall (CSFM) listed CO devices?

Please just click on the link below:
http://osfm.fire.ca.gov/strucfireengineer/pdf/bml/CSFM%20listed%20carbon%20monoxide%20devices.pdf. You may then click on the desired listing’s information, which will open up pdf documents of the full listing. For further information contact the CSFM office phone number or the manufacturer listed

15.What can I do to check updated listings?

Please click on the link below:
http://osfm.fire.ca.gov/licensinglistings/licenselisting_bml_searchcotest.php and search by CSFM category or Company (Manufacturer).

16.If I have a CO device that is not listed by the State Fire Marshal prior to the law, can they maintain it or does it have to be replaced?

CA law SB 183 requires that CO alarms and detectors be approved and listed by the State Fire Marshal today, not prior to the law!   If the manufacturer  has an approval now you can buy and use the product.  In addition, existing, listed CO alarms and detectors installed prior to July 1, 2011 can be utilized.

17.Does CA expect to require a 10 year non-replaceable battery for combination smoke/CO alarm?

Yes, to get CSFM approval for combination battery operated (primary power source) smoke/CO alarm; starting January 1, 2014 the device must contain a non-replaceable, non-removable battery that is capable of powering the smoke alarm for a minimum of 10 years as required per Senate Bill 1394.

18.What are the effective dates for installing CO devices in various structures in CA?

The effective date for installing a CO alarm in a single-family home having fossil fuel burning appliances and/or attached garages is July 1, 2011.
The effective date for all other dwelling except hotels and motels is January 1, 2013 for dwellings having an attached garage of fuel burning appliance.
The effective date for hotels and motels having fossil fuel burning appliances and/or attached garages is January 1, 2016.

19.Where should I install my CO alarm?

CO alarms should be installed such that you get 75 decibels at the pillow in every sleeping area according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standard 720, which is the installation standard for CO alarms.  This is true in every state.  It means one in every bedroom and sleeping area as well as one on every floor including the basement.  The manufacturer’s installation instruction should also be followed as some alarms cannot be used on the ceiling.  Consult their owner’s manual on the website before you buy.

20.Are CO devices that are required by SB-183 to be installed in each bedroom?

CA law SB-183 was written in 2009 and it states that alarms be installed outside of each sleeping area but NFPA 720 2012 edition complements that state law.  For maximum protection against CO gas, NPFPA 720 requires a CO devices be installed in each sleeping room in order to achieve the 75 decibel alarm level.  When a typical bedroom door is closed it is not feasible to obtain 75 decibels at the pillow in an average bedroom.

21.What is the best location and height should a CO device be mounted?

The height should follow recommendation in your owner’s manual.  However, for convenience a height of 5 feet is acceptable on the wall but the ceiling is also acceptable and even preferred for safety.  The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 720 states that the location for effective performance is not generally dependent on mounting height.  However, I have conducted tests that show CO goes up high when coming off a running generator, BBQ or heater therefore the higher is better but it is also more difficult to maintain.   From a generator in an enclosed structure death can happen very quickly so never bring a portable generator or BBQ inside.  You may not but someone else who buys your house might.  Your children might in an emergency.  It has happened many times before and people die.  Higher is better.  I am speaking from personal experience as an expert who has conducted accident reconstruction tests with generators, heaters and BBQ.  I HAVE SEEN BUILT IN GENERATORS FAIL BECAUSE THEIR FLUE WAS DAMAGED OR PLUGGED WITH A BIRDS NEST.
If carbon monoxide is the same temperature as air it mixes well and diffuses according to Fick’s law.  Fick’s first law of diffusion states the following:
J= - D dC/dx
Where J is the rate of diffusion
D is the diffusion coefficient, which depend on the molecular
C is the concentration of the gas and
X is the direction of diffusion
If CO is hot it will be buoyant and will rise.  If there are mixing forces such as a fan or wind it will be moved by these factors.  In some cases diffusion dominates in others wind or fan mixing can dominate.  It depends on the source and the conditions.  If, as is often the case when the power is out and you are in a tight home with windows closed, the diffusion will dominate.

22.Can I replace my existing smoke detector with a carbon monoxide device?

No you must have both a CO alarm and a smoke alarm or you can have a combination CO/smoke.  The smoke alarm lasts for ten years but the CO alarm only lives for 5 to 7 years.  Therefore a CO/smoke must be replaced every 5-7 years.  It may cost you more for a CO/smoke but it is up to you which you choose.

23.What agency is responsible for enforcing the CO installation requirements?

The enforcement can be specified in the law and varies from state to state and city to city.  In CA the State Fire Marshal approved and listed the CO alarms but enforcement is done by your local fire and/or building department just as it is done for smoke alarms.

24.How do governments enforce the CO alarm requirements?

They do not enforce the law by inspecting your home to see if you installed you CO detector.  But try to get a loan or refinance and you will need an appraisal.  Then you must be up to code to refinance or get a loan.  In fact you cannot sell your home or make any significant maintenance without getting a permit.  Then they force you to meet code and install your CO alarms.  For Example California Building Code, Chapter 2 and Health and Safety Code, Section 17920 provide a definition that states, “…diligent effort to secure compliance, including review of plans and permit applications, response to complaints, citation of violations, and other legal process. Except as otherwise provided in this part, “enforcement” may, but need not, include inspections of existing buildings on which no complaint or permit application has been filed, and effort to secure compliance as to these buildings”. 

25.Who may I contact for additional information?

For more information AND SPECIFIC QUESTIONS CONTACT 800 532 4852 CUSTOMER SERVICE AT QUANTUM GROUP DURING BUSINESS HOURS ON PACIFIC TIME.  You may also contact your local enforcing agencies, such as local building and fire departments.  CPSC has a website: www.cpsc.gov and a phone number.  They have many experts on the CO issue.  They continually investigate CO incidents.  Other regulation information is available from your state Department of Housing and Community Development website, for example, for CA contact www.hcd.ca.gov.
Information on the dangers of carbon monoxide is available from www.CPSC.gov and the Center for Disease Control at www.CDC.gov.  You may also contact your state agency such as the California Department of Public Health website at http://www.cdph.ca.gov/Pages/DEFAULT.aspx.

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