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. While most homeowners know it's a good idea to have smoke detectors installed, not as many have detectors that also detect carbon monoxide.

Starting April 1, a new City of Austin ordinance takes effect that requires carbon monoxide detectors be installed in almost all Austin homes. The Austin City Council recently adopted an ordinance with an effective date of April 1 requiring all homes in Austin City Limits 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, water heater, 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, AFD 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.

While it's unclear how the City of Austin plans to police this new ordinance, the Austin Board of Realtors suggests that "point of sale is a great time to ensure that a home is outfitted with functional CO detectors."

For full details, please click here for the City of Austin Maintenance Code, and here for the full ordinance.