Starting April 1, carbon monoxide detectors will be required in almost all Austin homes.
Almost all homes have smoke detectors installed, and this requirement is well known among the general public. But what about carbon monoxide (CO) detectors? Did you know that in the United States between 2010 and 2015, a total of 2,244 deaths resulted from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning? Many of these deaths could have been prevented by a properly-installed CO detector.
Does my home need a carbon monoxide detector?
In order to improve safety and reduce risks of carbon monoxide poisoning, Austin City Council adopted an ordinance with an effective date of April 1 requiring all homes in Austin to be outfitted by a CO detector if they meet the following requirements:
There is a gas or fuel-burning appliance in the home (e.g. gas stove, gas dryer, fireplace, gas-powered furnace, etc); or
The home is directly connected to a garage (i.e. there is a door leading to garage from kitchen or through a utility room).
If a home meets either of these standards, then one or more CO detectors will now be required.
Where do I need to install a carbon monoxide detector to meet the requirements?
You might be wondering where clients need to install CO detectors to be in compliance with the ordinance. According to the City of Austin “A CO detector must be installed near a bedroom if there is anything in your home that uses fuel or gas, as well as inside the bedroom if the room has or connects to a room that has fuel or gas.”
The National Association of Fire Protection goes further, recommending that “CO alarms should be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home and in other locations where required by applicable laws, codes or standards. For the best protection, interconnect all CO alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound.”
Further recommendations about placement and location can be found in manufacturer’s instructions. The Austin Fire Department (AFD) recommends against installing CO detectors near air vents or fans, instead placing them in the center of the room where they can measure the general atmospheres, For extra protection, recommends also placing a detector about 15 feet away from your home’s heat source. Additional information is available through the AFD website.
Do my CO detectors need to be wired into the house
The advocacy team at the Austin Board of REALTORS® worked to ensure that the City of Austin did not require CO detectors to be wired unless the home was originally built to accommodate a wired system or major renovations are completed. If your home does not meet these exceptions, battery-powered CO detector(s) will satisfy the City’s requirement.
Can I use a combined smoke/CO detector to meet the new requirements?
Yes. The adopted City of Austin property code indicates that a combined smoke/CO detector is acceptable to meet the new requirements found in the International Property Maintenance Code. The AFD has more information on the three different types of CO detectors that are available and hints on what to look for in a detector.
Are carbon monoxide detectors required outside the City of Austin?
Local regulations vary based on the municipality, so be sure to check the entity’s respective website and look for more information on whether the city/town has adopted the CO detector requirements in the latest International Property Maintenance Code.
However, the Austin Board of REALTORS® strongly recommends the proper installation of CO detectors where there is a risk of poisoning due to appliances or vehicles. Point of sale is a great time to ensure that a home is outfitted with functional CO detectors. Installing detectors is generally not too costly and can be an easy concession to close a deal. If you are representing buyers, you can underline your value by advising them to look for operational detectors during the inspection and options period. Who knows, you might even save someone’s life.