7 Investigates: Carbon monoxide detector laws

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) – With heaters working overtime to battle record-breaking cold temperatures, the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning increases.

"Carbon monoxide can be an absolute tragedy because it's so unexpected," Wausau firefighter Nick Garring said.

It's unexpected because the folks inside a home have no idea they are trapped breathing a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas.

"Anywhere from slightly sick to really sick--to people can possibly die," Garring said.

That's why Wausau Fire Inspector Lt. Brian Stahl says it is important to not just regularly test those alarms, but to also make sure they are replaced every seven years, know the alarm's power source, and check if the displays are working correctly.

It's important to note that Wisconsin law changed back in 2011, requiring a carbon monoxide detector on each level of all family residences having any fuel-burning appliance, fireplace or attached garage.

"Carbon monoxide is produced through incomplete combustion,” Garring said. “So the more you try to heat your home, if your furnace is inefficient the more carbon monoxide will be produced. They may potentially stay in your home if it's not vented properly."

That ventilation is key.

With it being so cold, firefighters say more people are using extra sources, like generators, for heat.

If you are a renter, state law requires your landlord to provide you with a carbon monoxide detector. If you are having trouble, Lt. Stahl said to contact your local city inspector’s office.