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Carbon monoxide detectors required in homes starting Jan. 1

SEATTLE – A new requirement for carbon monoxide detectors in Washington homes takes effect Jan. 1.

State law has required the alarms in new construction beginning in 2011. The 2013 law requires the detectors in all existing residences, including apartments, condos, hotels, dormitories and residential institutions.

Owners of single-family homes will be required to have the detectors when their home is sold or when they apply for a remodeling permit.

The Washington Realtors organization usually opposes point of sale requirements, but it worked with proponents of the alarm legislation to help protect clients from the poisonous gas, said Nathan Gorton, government affairs director.

Sellers will be required to make sure alarms are in the home before closing, he said.

“We didn’t think that was unreasonable,” Gorton said Tuesday.

The state Legislature ordered changes in the building code after widespread power outages from a December 2006 windstorm in the Puget Sound area led to hundreds of people being treated for carbon monoxide poisoning. Eight deaths were blamed on fumes from people using generators or lighting barbecues inside their homes.

“Those kind of tragedies pushed them to require alarms in residential buildings,” said Dana Catts, education specialist with the Seattle Fire Department.

Immigrant families are more at risk if they’ve come from cultures with well-ventilated homes or traditions of cooking over indoor charcoal, Catts said.

“It can happen to anybody who brings in the wrong type of heating, like barbecue grills or generators,” she said.The carbon monoxide alarms look similar to smoke alarms. They can be hard-wired or battery powered. They are sold where smoke alarms are sold, and some models are combined with a smoke alarm. Prices range from $25 to $40.