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Carbon Monoxide Detector Placement Code for Virginia Homes

Here’s the somewhat surprising answer: According to code, carbon monoxide detectors are not required to be installed in Virginia homes—unless the home is being used as a rental property.

That said, do we suggest installing them, regardless of whether your home is a rental property or not?


Carbon monoxide detectors help save lives by detecting dangerously high levels of this odorless, colorless and potentially fatal gas. Homes with gas appliances (i.e. gas furnaces, fireplaces, gas water heaters, etc) are at an increased risk of elevated carbon monoxide levels.

To help you keep your home and family safe, we’ll provide suggestions on where and how to install your carbon monoxide detectors.

On its own, a carbon monoxide detector only alerts you of dangerous carbon monoxide levels. For 24/7 protection that alerts authorities in the event that you’re asleep or unconscious when an alarm sounds, contact Richmond Alarm and ask us about our professional monitoring services.

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Virginia code specifying residential CO detector requirements

To help provide a complete answer to your CO (carbon monoxide) detector questions, we’ve provided some verbiage from the current Virginia residential code (as of 2019)...

Va. Code Ann. § 27-94 et seq. - Statewide Fire Prevention Code; and Va. Code Ann. § 36-97 et seq. - the Uniform Statewide Building Code

In Virginia it is required statewide that the installation and maintenance of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are in rental properties. It is required that Landlords install a smoke alarm without retrofitting the installation site and to certify annually that smoke alarms have been installed and maintained in good working order in a residential dwelling unit.

Va. Code Ann. § 55-248.16 - Tenant to maintain dwelling unit.

In Virginia, it is prohibited that the tenant of the rental property remove or tamper with a carbon monoxide detector installed by a landlord.

Va. Code Ann. § 55-248.18 – Tenant Obligations

In Virginia, it is allowed for a tenant to install carbon monoxide detection devices that the tenant may believe is necessary for his/her safety.

CO detector placement tips for VA homes

Whether your home is used for rental purposes or is your living space, you should install carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home to protect again CO poisoning.

To help make sure you’re placing these detectors correctly, we’ll provide some basic tips on how and where to install your CO detectors.

Tip #1: Place at least one CO detector on every level of your home

If your home has multiple stories, make sure that you have one detector on each floor (including a basement if you have one).

If you have a garage, make sure that you place one near it (i.e. in the hallway leading to the garage).

Tip #2: Place a CO detector outside all bedrooms

The IRC (International Code Council) suggests placing a CO detector outside “each sleeping area” (i.e. bedroom). The alarm should be installed within 10 feet of the bedroom door.

This is an important tip to remember because humans are most vulnerable to CO poisoning when sleeping. That’s because we’re breathing in the toxic gas but not exhibiting any symptoms (nausea, lightheadedness, dizziness, etc).

That said, if you only place one CO detector in your home, place it so that it’s as close as possible to every bedroom in the home.

Tip #3: Place a CO detector inside any room that has a “fuel-burning appliance”

Common Fuel Burning Home Appliances

All of these common home appliances are sources of carbon monoxide. Source

Any of the following appliances are considered “fuel-burning”:

  • Lanterns
  • Furnaces
  • Room heaters
  • Fireplaces
  • Gas water heaters
  • Gas dryer
  • Gas ranges
  • Grills
  • Stoves
  • Cars/trucks
  • Small gasoline-powered engines

If your home has any of these appliances, you need to place a carbon monoxide detector inside that room (not outside). In fact, you should install the CO detector at least 5-10 feet from any of the appliances above.

Tip #6: Don’t place CO detector close to windows or doors

If you place a carbon monoxide detector too close to a window or door, any incoming fresh air may prevent a CO detector from properly detecting CO and sounding its alarm.

Tip #7: Replace your CO detector every 5 to 7 years

Most CO detectors on the market today are designed to last only 5 to 7 years (some can die shorter than this). If you’re not sure whether your CO detector is still functioning properly, have a professional inspect it.

Monitored CO detectors are like having paramedics on standby…

Carbon Monoxide Detector Monitoring

On its own, a CO detector will sound an alarm when it detects CO. The problem is, a screaming alarm doesn’t provide much help if you’re unconscious.

That’s why we highly suggest having your CO detectors professionally monitored.

When your CO detectors are monitored, it means that live monitoring specialists are alerted the moment your CO detector sounds an alarm. From there, they’ll dispatch paramedics on your behalf in the event of an emergency.

At Richmond Alarm, we provide Virginia homeowners with fast, local professional monitoring services. In fact, we dispatch authorities less than 30 seconds after an alarm is triggered (if there is an emergency). And when it comes to carbon monoxide poisoning, every second counts.

If you’re interested in having us professionally install and monitor your home for carbon monoxide poisoning and other emergencies, just contact us. We’ll send over a tech for a free, no-obligation in-home inspection.

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