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Carbon Monoxide Safety

What Is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a gas produced by fuel-burning appliances like gas stoves, boilers, water heaters, dryers, space heaters, and generators. If one of these appliances isn’t working properly, the gas can build up in your home or business. CO has no color, odor, or taste. It’s extremely harmful or fatal to breathe in large quantities of CO.

How Can I Stay Safe?

Because you can’t see, smell, or taste CO, you won’t be able to rely on your senses to tell you when there’s a problem.

That’s why New York City law requires that every home have a carbon monoxide detector.


A good place to install it is within 15 feet of each bedroom. The detector will trigger an alarm when an excess amount of CO is detected.

In addition to installing and maintaining CO detectors throughout your home, you should also never use a generator indoors. Only use your generator outdoors in a well-ventilated, dry area, away from air intakes to the home, and protected from rain and snow, preferably under a canopy, open shed, or carport.

Signs of CO Poisoning

  • Breathing small amounts of CO can result in headaches, chest tightness, dizziness, nausea, and fatigue.
  • Prolonged exposure could lead to fainting or, in some cases, could be fatal.
  • If your CO alarm goes off, but no one is showing symptoms of CO poisoning, open windows, turn off all potential CO sources, and leave. Before returning, have a technician inspect your appliances, detector, and chimneys to check for problems.

If you think you might have CO poisoning, get outside immediately and call 911.


Preventing CO Poisoning

  • Check the carbon monoxide detector batteries monthly and replace them once a year.
  • Teach family members about the signs of CO poisoning and make a plan for what to do if the alarm sounds.
  • Never use a gas range or oven to heat your home.
  • Don’t use grills, portable generators, propane or kerosene auxiliary heaters indoors, or in any enclosed space. They can cause CO to build up, and they’re illegal in New York City and parts of Westchester County.
  • Annually inspect your fireplace, chimney, and furnace venting system, and keep them clear of leaves, nests, soot, or other obstructions.
  • Make sure the flue pipe connection to the furnace chimney is tight and the pipes aren't dented or cracked.
  • Check that the vent pipe on your water heater is as tight and well-fitted as the furnace piping. Replace worn parts or ill-fitting pipes.
  • When switching from oil to natural gas, be sure to have the chimney cleaned and inspected by a qualified professional.
  • Have a qualified heating contractor tune up and maintain your heating system periodically.
  • Never leave a vehicle or gasoline-powered equipment running in a garage, even with the garage door open.