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Published: May 23, 2024 5 min read

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a gas or liquid that’s often called the “silent killer” because it’s colorless, odorless and tasteless. This means that poisoning can go undetected until it’s too late. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 400 people die of CO poisoning each year. This is why many states require that homes and commercial spaces have carbon monoxide detectors installed.

When it comes to detectors at home, knowing the difference between a low battery alert, a malfunction warning or a real CO detection alarm can help you respond appropriately to a potential exposure and prevent deaths.

To learn more about how you can keep your home and loved ones safe, go over our list of the best home security systems.

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Why is my carbon monoxide detector beeping?

Most alarms beep continuously or make a series of beeps at quick, regular intervals when they detect CO gas.

In this situation, you should evacuate everyone from the dwelling immediately. Once outside in fresh air, call emergency services (such as 9-1-1) to report the gas detection and get professional help.

If there are no CO emitting appliances on and you believe it’s a false alarm, air out the space, evacuate and wait to see if the alarm turns off.

However, even if you think it might be a false alarm, we advise you to keep an eye out for symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, such as difficulty breathing. (Further below, we’ll detail more symptoms and who is more at risk of poisoning.)

Other Types of Sounds Your Detector Makes and What To Do

While the main reason a CO detector beeps is because it detects gas in the area, there are other sounds your detector might make. Some devices beep, while others emit a chirping sound.

Regardless of what sound your device makes, you should take them seriously. These not only help you ensure continuous protection, but also maintain your detector in working order. We suggest you study your alarm manual to learn about the specific sounds, meanings and instructions related to your particular model.

Also know that newer models have LED indicator lights that can further help you match sound with meaning.

Low Battery

Many devices beep every minute or two to signal that it’s time to replace the battery. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), you should replace the batteries of your CO detector at least once a year, unless you have a device with a sealed battery. If you have the latter device, then it may be time to replace it altogether.

Device Malfunction or End of Life

When detectors make several beeps every 30 seconds to a minute, it may be that there’s an issue with the device or it's near the end of its life. If you’ve had the device installed for 10 years or less, consider contacting a technician to test it and determine if there’s been a malfunction. In contrast, we recommend you replace devices that are 10 years old or older.

False Alarm

False alarms will sound just like a real one. Because these devices are built to detect gasses, they can be sensitive and go off when near a CO-emitting appliance or a fireplace. As we mentioned above, if you believe your carbon monoxide detector beeping is due to a false alarm, air out the space and wait outside to see if the alarm turns off.

However, just because a device is near an appliance or fireplace does not mean it is a false alarm. When the alarm sounds, you should evacuate and call emergency services. Once emergency personnel have cleared the area for any potential leaks you should contact the service provider to inspect your device and ensure it is still in working order.

To avoid false alarms, home security experts recommend you install detectors at least 15 feet away from any appliance, stove or fireplace that, when in use, may trigger a false detection alarm.

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Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Everyone is at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, especially during winter months when many use heating appliances and close their windows. However, children, the elderly or anyone with a respiratory disease are at a higher risk of poisoning. To prevent poisoning, look out for symptoms similar to the flu, such as:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting