Residential vs. Commercial Carbon Monoxide Monitoring: What’s the Difference?

Carbon Monoxide Monitoring

Carbon monoxide monitoring is key to ensuring occupant health and safety in both residential and commercial buildings. However, the CO monitors used for homes and commercial buildings differ greatly from one another. Building managers have to choose the right monitor for each use case in order to truly protect their occupants and avoid liability.

Whether you are a manager in the market for new CO monitors for your commercial building, or have residential CO monitors in your building, these are the key differences between residential and commercial carbon monoxide monitors you should be aware of. 

Why is Carbon Monoxide Monitoring So Important?

Carbon monoxide is also known as “the silent killer” for a good reason: it’s colourless, odourless, tasteless, and non-irritating. That makes it impossible to detect before it becomes poisonous. Since people don’t know that the gas is there, symptoms of CO poisoning can be ignored until it’s too late to escape the danger. If a person is exposed to excess CO, they may experience tiredness, headaches, difficulty breathing, disorientation, loss of consciousness, brain damage, and eventually death.

On average, there are 300 deaths and 200 hospitalizations due to CO poisoning in Canada each year. This is why installing the proper monitors for both multi-unit residential as well as commercial facilities is critical for the peace of mind that occupants are protected and will be alerted in case of a CO incident.

Not the Place to Cut Corners

Even though building managers are pressured constantly to keep the costs low, CO monitoring isn’t be the place to cut corners. Doing so not only puts occupants at risk, but also exposes managers and owners to legal liability that can cost them millions of dollars. 

For example, in 2018, a 12-year-old boy died in his Airdrie apartment due to CO poisoning; and as a consequence, both the management company and the builder are facing a class action lawsuit seeking $16 million dollars in damages. In 2020, a Canadian steel company was fined $290,000 for workplace incidents that occurred in 2018, one of them involving CO poisoning.

Stories like this happen every year in Canada and in most cases, the incidents are preventable with the adequate carbon monoxide monitoring protocol, starting by choosing the correct CO monitoring alarms.

The Difference Between Residential and Commercial Carbon Monoxide Monitoring

Residential and commercial CO monitors differ in manufacturing, performance, maintenance requirements, and regulatory standards. Making use of residential CO monitors in commercial buildings is insufficient and dangerous.


Residential CO monitors are meant to be exposed to standard household environmental conditions, that’s why they are usually made of consumer-grade plastic, and they’re not waterproof or IP rated. On the other hand, quality commercial monitors are built to withstand the harshest conditions: heat, cold, water, dust, chemical exposure, damage from vehicles, and even vandalism. 


Commercial and residential CO monitors have the same function, but they work differently. Normally, residential monitors have basic, pre-programmed settings that users don’t usually change after installed, because they’re tested and calibrated before leaving the manufacturing facility. 

Commercial monitors can be set to go off at different levels of hazardous gas, depending on the environment they’re going to be working in. They also have more advanced technology because they are meant to be placed at facilities where the environmental conditions are subject to constant changes throughout the day. In addition to the calibration before leaving the manufacturing plant, commercial monitors need to be re-calibrated regularly to ensure they’re working properly.


Residential CO monitors are pretty straightforward and practically maintenance free. But commercial monitors need a regular maintenance schedule, which should be part of the building’s health and safety plan.

Regulatory Standards

Commercial and residential CO monitors must meet different regulatory and certification standards, including the local and federal building codes. Moreover, commercial monitors must meet OSHA guidelines, and they’re further regulated depending on use, such as non-hazardous and hazardous applications. If buildings fail to install correctly-rated monitors, or worse, opt to use residential monitors, they’d be putting the health and safety of occupants at high risk and opening themselves up to fines and legal liability.


This is where building managers may be tempted to choose residential CO monitors, since they’re far cheaper than the commercial monitors, people mistakenly believe that they will do the same job. But, as we have explained, commercial and residential monitors differ greatly in the way they work, even if they have the same goal.

If you’ve been cutting corners with your carbon monoxide monitors in your commercial building, the time to change is now. With the proper carbon monoxide monitoring you will be protecting the lives of your occupants, and yourself for potential liability that can cost you far more than the money you’d be saving. Contact us to get professional support.

Residential vs. Commercial Carbon Monoxide Monitoring: What’s the Difference?


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