Testing your carbon monoxide (CO) and smoke detectors is vital. Detectors should be checked on a regular basis to make sure they are functioning properly and will warn your family in case of an emergency.  These devices should be be tested monthly to ensure they are in good working order. This should be in addition to the ‘changing the batteries’ routine when we observe Daylight Savings time changes.


Note: A carbon monoxide detector does not double as a smoke detector unless it is a dual Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Detector that conforms to CSA standards for “Residential Carbon Monoxide Alarming Devices”

For the purposes of this guide, we will be explaining how to test Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Detector combo devices.

How to Test a Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Alarm

Testing your carbon monoxide, or CO, and smoke detectors is an easy process that only takes a few minutes every month.  Get into the habit or set a monthly reminder to make sure everything is working as it should.


1. Warn Occupants of CO/Smoke Detector Testing

This may seem like an overcautious first step but CO/Smoke Detectors can and should be very loud and may startle family members and animals present in your home. You should make sure everyone is aware of and prepared for the testing.

You have likely performed this test while changing your batteries. Simply hold the ‘test’ button down for a few seconds until you hear the piercing alarm.


2. Perform a Sound Test

You have likely performed this test while changing your batteries. Simply hold the ‘test’ button down for a few seconds until you hear the piercing alarm.You should replace the CO/Smoke Detector if:  

  • The alarm does not sound
  • The alarm is not loud and ear piercing
  • If the other alarms in your home do not also sound (As of 2014, Alberta Building Codes require that all alarms be interlinked)

3. Test the Detector With Canned Smoke

Even if your alarm does sound, it is no guarantee that it is still able to sense smoke. Debris may prevent smoke from entering the sensing chamber, or the device may have failed. You should perform a canned smoke test to properly test the whether your CO/Smoke Detectors are detecting. Canned smoke can be purchased from a hardware store and should be used as follows:

  • Hold the canned smoke 2-3 feet from the CO/Smoke Detector and spray for 3 seconds.
  • If the device does not sound within 5 seconds, immediately spray for 3 more seconds.
  • If the alarm still does not sound, your detector may be malfunctioning. Complete a visual inspection (step 4) to make sure there is no debris and the batteries are still good.

Here is a great video demonstrating how to test a CO/smoke detector with canned smoke.  


4. Visual Inspection

Remove the CO/Smoke Detector from its mounting bracket and check for the following:


Check the CO/Smoke Detector's Expiry Date

CO/Smoke Detectors expire after 7-10 years. If your unit is expired or close to expiring, it will need to be replaced.


Check for Debris in the Detector

Dust, Grease and hair can clog the detector and prevent it from functioning properly. Check for large obstructions and give your CO/Smoke Detectors a quick wipe with a damp cloth to ensure they are clean.


Check to Make Sure the Batteries Are Still Working

This is the part everyone knows! Batteries should be replaced every 6 months. Changing your batteries during every Daylight Savings time change makes it easy to remember and you will always know how old the batteries are.


Hardwired CO/Smoke Detectors must also have batteries installed and changed on a regular basis since these batteries serve as a backup in case of power failure.

How often should CO/Smoke Detectors be Tested and Checked?

The Government of Canada’s Fire Safety Information Page recommends checking your detectors EVERY month because check every 6 months is not enough. Electronic devices, including CO/Smoke Detectors, can fail at any time due to electronic malfunction, faulty batteries, power surges, etc.

Alberta Building Code requirements for Carbon Monoxide Detectors

The Alberta Building Code was updated in 2014 and now requires CO Detectors in all residential dwellings that have attached garages or contain fuel-burning appliances such as gas furnaces, water heaters, fireplaces, ranges, etc. The Alberta Code Guidelines for CO Detectors, stipulate they must be installed as follows:


A CO detector must be installed inside each bedroom, or if outside a bedroom, they must be installed within 5 meters of each bedroom door.


At least one on each level of your home.


All newly installed detectors must be interconnected so they will all go off if one is triggered.

Alberta Building Code requirements for Smoke Detectors

The Alberta Code Guidelines for Smoke Detector installations are the same as the CO Detectors with the following additions:


A smoke detector must be installed inside EACH bedroom AND each hallway connected to a bedroom.

Need Some Help?

If you are not sure if your home’s detectors are up to code standards, or if you just need assistance performing any of the tests, please give Exquisite Electric a call at 587-333-3373. Our experts will test your CO/smoke detecting system and make sure everything is working as it should.

Exquisite Electric
March 9, 2018