man changing out carbon monoxide detector

Home Security Tips Fire Alarm Systems

Is Your Carbon Monoxide Detector Beeping?

Published 10/12/2022 by General Security


Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published in October 2018 and has been revised to reflect industry updates.


Installing a carbon monoxide (CO) detector in residential and commercial buildings is extremely important, as it indicates the presence of this odorless, colorless, tasteless, and potentially fatal gas. An effective detector will sound a beeping or chirping noise to warn those inside to quickly leave the premises.

According to the most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 100,000 people in the U.S. visit the emergency department each year due to accidental CO poisoning.

The agency adds that of those, more than 420 will lose their lives. 

The CDC says that CO is present in the emissions from devices such as furnaces, kerosene heaters, vehicles idling in garages, stoves, lanterns, gas cooktops, and portable generators, as well as from burning wood and charcoal. In confined or semi-confined areas, the levels of CO from these sources can accumulate. Inhalation of this CO can be lethal to both humans and animals in these environments.

It's important to note that deaths from CO exposure are entirely preventable. It's all about taking the proper safety precautions to project yourself and the lives of your loved ones. To ensure a properly functioning CO detector, homeowners and business owners must periodically perform tests and inspections.

The first indication of a potential issue is a beep or chirp—occurring anywhere between every 30 seconds to five minutes.

This could be one of two things.

A beeping or chirping CO detector could signify the presence of gas, or a low battery. Regardless of the reason, further action should be taken.

Below we’ll discuss how carbon monoxide detectors can protect your loved ones and property, and why it’s important to conduct regular device inspections, testing, and maintenance.

A beeping or chirping CO detector could signify the presence of gas, or a low battery. Regardless of the reason, further action should be taken.

How Do CO Detectors Work?

Powered by batteries or connected directly to residential and commercial electrical systems, CO detectors function via a silicon microchip, sensors, and semiconductors. Upon detecting this potentially fatal gas, they sound a beeping or chirping noise indicating potential danger. Detectors equipped with LCD screens also display CO levels and system statuses to indicate inspection deadlines.

CO detectors also signal noxious gas buildup, even before occupants experience symptoms. For example, low CO levels of approximately 50 parts per million (ppm) won’t trigger beeping for several hours, while 150 ppm sound detectors almost immediately.

CO Detector Beeping & Chirping Signals

It’s important to reiterate: Carbon monoxide can be fatal. Because CO detectors protect people from this dangerous gas, incessant chirping should signal occupants to immediately leave the residence or place of business. This deadly gas may be present, and fire emergency professionals should be contacted, immediately.

When listening for CO detector beeps or chirps, there are differences between patterns.

Note the following: 

  • Four beeps accompanied by a pause indicate CO is present. Occupants should immediately seek fresh air and notify emergency personnel.
  • One chirp per minute means CO detector batteries are due for replacement.
  • Five beeps per minute signals the detector should be replaced.


CO Poisoning Symptoms & Exposure

The New York State Department of Health advises that if you suspect CO poisoning, it's crucial to get everyone out of the affected area to breathe fresh air immediately. Then, promptly notify the fire department and reach out to the gas company or your heating contractor.

For added safety, the department suggests routine inspections of home heating systems, including furnaces, fireplaces, and chimneys, to ensure they are working correctly and not emitting dangerous levels of CO. The agency also recommends scheduling regular inspections of home heating sources, such as furnaces, fireplaces, and chimneys.

If you suspect exposure to CO, look out for symptoms such as:

  • Nausea 
  • Chest Pain
  • Dizziness  
  • Shortness of Breath

If you need medical guidance regarding CO exposure or any other potential poisoning situations, the American Association of Poison Control Centers is a valuable resource available to assist.


Regularly Maintain & Inspect CO Detectors

To further ensure safety, regular maintenance and inspection of CO detectors are crucial. While some CO detectors come with replaceable batteries, there are also units equipped with 10-year-lifetime sealed lithium batteries that emit a beep as an end-of-life warning. It's imperative to be aware of your CO detector's age and to perform consistent tests, inspections, and maintenance on it.

For those with CO detectors that have replaceable batteries, it's advisable to replace the batteries every six months, ideally during the daylight saving time transitions. It's also important to note that CO detectors aren't designed to last indefinitely—most have an operational lifespan ranging from five to seven years.

Best Places to Install CO Detectors

For both small apartments and expansive homes, it's advised to position CO detectors on walls, ideally about five feet above the floor. Prime installation spots encompass bedrooms and other areas designated for sleeping. Additionally, it's wise to situate detectors in proximity to gas fireplaces, ovens, and stoves. Don't overlook areas like garages, sheds, or any other places that house gas-operated tools and vehicles.

In the context of commercial structures, ensure that CO detectors are installed on every level. Key locations within these buildings include office spaces, and shared communal spots like kitchens, conference halls, and dining areas. Mobile Alerts

Working with General Security for fire and safety technologies gives you access to the mobile app, as well as local authorities through 24/7 Central Station Monitoring. Real-time alerts are sent to any mobile device—whether regarding a carbon monoxide leak, or low or missing batteries. While you should always regularly test and inspect devices, such direct connections grant invaluable peace of mind—while preventing injuries and saving lives. 


Ensuring Health & Safety

Whether upgrading existing fire and safety measures or adding an entirely new system, consider working with a reputable provider such as General Security, for expert assistance with installation, monitoring, and inspections.


General Security provides advanced fire and safety protection measures for homes and businesses. Request a free quote from us today!

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