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Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detector Buyers Guide

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Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detector Buyers Guide


Things to Consider When Buying A Carbon Monoxide Detector

Before you buy, it’s good to break down exactly what to look for in a carbon monoxide detector. We’ll highlight several key factors that were part of our decision-making process to help you become a more informed consumer, but if you’d like to skip to the details on our recommended models, you can do that here.

What Are the Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

Carbon Monoxide doesn’t have a smell or taste, so you might not know right away that you’re being poisoned, but your body will. If you have carbon monoxide poisoning, you may feel dizzy, become nauseous, throw up, develop a headache, get confused, or pass out. It’s often been said that the signs of CO poisoning might resemble the flu.

Every year, 400 Americans die from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning (from fuel burning, not fires), and 20,000 are admitted to the emergency room.1 If you become unconscious while carbon monoxide is filling your home, it can be life threatening. That’s where carbon monoxide detectors come into play. Once installed, they can alert you about high levels of carbon monoxide in your home, which will give you more time to get to safety.

Who Is Most Susceptible to CO Poisoning?

Everyone is susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning. But, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children, older adults, people who are physically ill, and pets are more likely to be affected by CO.2 The Mayo Clinic adds that unborn babies’ blood cells take in more CO than adult blood cells, which makes them more susceptible to poisoning.3 Older adults who experience high levels of CO could be more likely to incur brain damage.

When it comes down to it, a CO detector can help save your life and the lives of the people you love. If you want to find out more information about CO detectors, check out our frequently asked questions page.

What to Do If You Suspect High Levels of Carbon Monoxide

If you or your family members experience carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms, quickly walk outside for fresh air and call 911. Even if you start to feel better, you can still have toxic levels of CO in your system and might require medical help. In this situation, it’s a good idea to have your whole family checked for poisoning, including your pets. Signs of carbon monoxide poisoning don’t always happen right away—it can happen over the period of days and possibly even weeks, depending on the levels of CO in your home.

What Is a Carbon Monoxide Detector?

Carbon monoxide detectors are a lot like smoke detectors, but instead of looking for signs of fire, they detect levels of carbon monoxide. Depending on the brand, detectors operate in one of three ways: with a biomimetic sensor, metal oxide semiconductor, or electrochemical sensor.

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Biomimetic detectors use gels that change color after absorbing a certain amount of carbon monoxide—and then a sensor sounds an alarm. Metal oxide semiconductors have silica chips that detect CO and send electrical signals to trigger an alarm. Electrochemical sensors are considered to be the best in the industry. They use electrodes in chemical solutions that sense changes in electrical currents when carbon monoxide is present, and they sound an alarm.

If you have a professionally monitored security system installed, it should come with a CO detector. Check out the top five security providers, all of which provide CO detectors with their monitoring plans.

Where to Install Carbon Monoxide Detectors

The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends putting a carbon monoxide detector outside every separate sleeping area in your home.4 You might also want to add a carbon monoxide detector in your kitchen and basement for added safety. Also, make sure you install detectors close to bedrooms so alarms will wake you up if you’re sleeping.

If you have an attached garage, you’ll want to place a CO detector by the entranceway. A vehicle that’s been left running in a closed space is a common cause for CO poisoning. In the grand scheme of things, it’s better to be overly cautious by placing CO detectors in every room, floor, and hallway than suffering CO poisoning.

How to Maintain a Carbon Monoxide Detector

Most carbon monoxide detectors last an average of five years. Although the product’s lifetime will vary depending on your make and model, you can still get the most out of your detector by wiping it down weekly to keep it clean from dust and debris.

It’s also a good idea to test your CO detector monthly. Start by pressing the “test” button to ensure the siren works. If your detector is older, you can purchase a carbon monoxide test kit to ensure that it’s fully functional. If the detector doesn’t go off when you test it, it’s probably time to buy a new one.


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