Carbon monoxide, or CO, is an odorless, invisible gas that can be produced by fuel-burning appliances that are not operating properly, like stoves, water heaters or furnaces, and extended exposure can cause flu-like symptoms or, if exposure continues, death. Carbon monoxide detectors are the only reliable way of determining that the gas has reached critical levels inside your home, and choosing the correct type to install and where to place them is relatively simple.
Choosing a Carbon Monoxide Detector
There are four basic types of carbon monoxide detectors:
- Battery-Operated: Can be placed anywhere, but need frequent battery replacements
- Plug-in: Can be installed anywhere that has an electrical outlet, and they often feature a battery for backup power.
- Hard-wired: Connected permanently to the electrical system of a home, they typically have a battery backup.
- Combination alarms: Combine a CO detector with a smoke detector, and often a fire detector.
In most cases, the best choices are plug-in or hard-wired carbon monoxide detectors with integrated battery backups. Alarms that rely solely on batteries are not as dependable, as the batteries may lose power, and combination alarms may detect multiple dangers, but they tend to be less sensitive and reliable than alarms designed for a single function. Regardless of the type, check the function of the detector monthly, using the “Test” feature, and replace the batteries at least twice a year.
Where to Install CO Detectors
Carbon monoxide is lighter than air, so many manufacturers recommend installing CO detectors high on the wall or on the ceiling. At least one detector should be installed on each level of your home, and one should be placed in or near each bedroom.
Keep each detector at least 15 feet away from sources of combustion to avoid false readings, and if your appliances are located in a basement, place one detector at the top of the stairs. Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation and operation carefully, and replace each detector at the manufacturer-recommended intervals.