Updated Dec 8, 2022
Carbon monoxide poisoning is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. However, poisoning from carbon monoxide can be easily prevented. Thanks to advances in technology and various types of carbon monoxide detectors on the market, you can be alerted to this “silent killer” in your home. Read our in-depth guide to learn about the best places to put carbon monoxide detectors and more.
A carbon monoxide (CO) alarm is an essential home safety tool. It’s designed to detect carbon monoxide — a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that is the by-product of combustion. Using a carbon monoxide alarm is the only way to detect the presence of dangerous gas. Some of the most likely reasons for a buildup of carbon monoxide in the home include:
Detecting high levels of carbon monoxide in your home is as critical as fire safety. Exposure to carbon monoxide may lead to poisoning, which has long-term debilitating effects and can be fatal.
Carbon monoxide poisoning, caused by inhaling combustion fumes, prevents oxygen from reaching your organs and tissues. Multiple fuel-burning appliances and engines common in the home produce carbon monoxide, though generally not in concerning amounts. However, carbon monoxide can reach dangerous levels if used improperly, like a camp stove in an enclosed space.
If exposed to carbon monoxide in dangerous amounts, you may experience some of the following symptoms:
Unaddressed, carbon monoxide poisoning may result in brain damage, cardiac damage, or death. Though its effects can be grave, carbon monoxide poisoning is easily prevented with properly placed carbon monoxide alarms.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that the placement of carbon monoxide detectors is crucial. With proper placement, you won’t get false alarms, and you’ll be alerted when you need to be. According to our research, you should:
Having at least one carbon monoxide detector in the home is a safe practice. In some states, it’s even required by law.
Once you’ve determined where to place carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home, you’ll need to install them. While each manufacturer’s instructions will dictate specific installation methods, these are the general steps:
Most homeowners should be able to install carbon monoxide detectors easily. It requires about the same level of skill as installing a smoke alarm. Generally, installation only requires a few common tools and a little bit of time. Regardless, don’t skip the crucial step of testing the unit once it’s connected to power. Testing your CO detector helps ensure it will function when needed.
There are different types of carbon monoxide detectors on the market. All CO detectors are manufactured to Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) standards. We’ve outlined some of each type’s key advantages and disadvantages below.
|Battery||Easy to install, and works in a power outage||Batteries need to be replaced often|
|Hardwired||Can link multiple units together||Loses function in a power outage|
|Plug-in||Affordable and easily available||Plugs are often not ideal installation heights|
Within each of these categories, there is a range of technology, pricing, and features. While the most basic models will alert you to dangerous carbon monoxide levels, others have more advanced technology. For example, some smart home detectors are combination smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and can alert you while you’re out of the house. They can also give you an exact readout of CO levels within the house or instructions on moving to safety.
If your carbon monoxide alarm sounds, it’s important to take it seriously. Ignoring an alarm can lead to grave consequences. If CO is detected in your home, you should do the following:
Getting to safety is the priority if your carbon monoxide alarm goes off. It’s also important to prevent future danger by fixing any issues that may have caused an alarm to sound in the first place.
Undetected carbon monoxide can have deadly consequences. Proper placement of carbon monoxide detectors in your home can help reassure your and your family’s well-being and be lifesaving.
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