Where To Place Your Carbon Monoxide Detector, Safety Tips, And The Top 5 Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Protect your home

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that is potentially fatal if breathed by humans. It is produced anytime a fossil fuel is burned, therefore it exists in any home with gas, oil, coal or wood heating. Each of these methods have built in methods of containing the carbon monoxide and releasing it safely but should anything go wrong in these pieces of equipment, we wouldn’t necessarily know carbon monoxide was leaking out until it was too late.

When you decide to purchase a carbon monoxide (CO) detector, you’re adding another layer of protection to your family’s safety blanket. But you want to make sure that you’re doing it right, otherwise your purchase will be wasted money. There are a few things you’ll want to determine; how many you’ll need, which detector will suit your house the best and most importantly, where to put your CO detectors once you have them. Below you’ll find some very important tips on where your CO monitors should be placed.

Five Feet From the Ground

Carbon Monoxide is lighter than breathable air, so if there is CO in the air, it will rise while our regular breathing air will be forced lower. Keep in mind, several CO detectors are plug ins that stay where the electrical outlet is. But placing them in the outlet just a couple feet off the ground may not protect your house the way it should. Always make sure you’re keeping your detector at or just below eye level to ensure maximum safety.

Near Attached Garages

While you may have heard that you shouldn’t leave your car running in the garage, you may not understand the real danger. As with any fossil fuel, while your car burns through its gas, it creates carbon monoxide which is vented out through the exhaust. If your car is enclosed in a garage, there’s no place for it to safely escape. Every year approximately 20,000-30,000 people are accidentally poisoned, while 500 of these accidents are fatal (read more here). To make sure your car is not poisoning your house, you’ll want to make sure you have a CO detector close to the garage you keep your car in; possibly even inside the garage itself.

Near Your Sleeping Areas

You want the detectors to be where you’re going to be, for certain. But putting them where you’re going to be sleeping and the most vulnerable is crucial to keeping your family safe. If something happens to your home’s CO producing equipment while you’re awake, you could notice it before the CO becomes a danger (but don’t count on it, even so). When you’re asleep, you’ll likely miss any indicators that something’s amiss and making sure that CO leak doesn’t work its way to your sleeping baby is vital to his safety and your peace of mind.

On Every Level of your Home

You should put carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home to ensure your entire house is free of this silent killer. Even if you don’t use the basement, you’ll need one there, too, because if there is a leak in the basement and you don’t go there for days, the gas will build up and when you venture down for your tools or decorations, you’ll face an immediate poisoning situation that could very well be fatal. You wouldn’t lock a serial killer in your basement; you shouldn’t leave it exposed to CO, either.

Anywhere the Manufacturer Says

Every carbon monoxide detector has its own specifications. Some are meant for different sensitivities and locations. If a detector tells you to place it in a certain place, you want to adhere to their guidelines because those specifications may be much more stringent than you know.

Other Considerations

Avoid Humidity. You’ll want to avoid certain places in your home to keep your detector’s sensor working properly. Humidity may tamper with the accuracy of a sensor and as such, you’ll want to avoid placing these near anything that produces that. For example, steer clear of the bathrooms, fireplaces, furnaces, dryers, kitchen and even direct sunlight.

Replace as recommended. The sensors in each CO detector have a specific shelf life. You will need to follow the instructions very closely to make sure your machines still work. The last thing you want is to have an accident because you thought you were protected but weren’t. And as you probably already know, replace the batteries as necessary.

If you’re concerned with the level of CO in your home, your detector will likely come with a user guide that will tell you what levels are normal and when it will sound alarm. But we’ve included a handy chart in the meantime.

Top 5 Carbon Monoxide Detectors

If you’re in the market for Carbon Monoxide detectors, consider our top 5 picks for detectors, listed alphabetically below.

1. First Alert Battery Operated Carbon Monoxide Alarm

First Alert Battery Operated Carbon Monoxide Alarm 2 Pack

Depending on the layout of your home, you may be able to find a location that fits all the placement criteria so that you’ll only need one detector. For example if your home is a ranch style with all the bedrooms near each other, you may be able to monitor the entire home appropriately. But chances are, even in this scenario, you’ll need more than one to be safe. This two pack allows you to click once and get the best protection you can provide for your home or office. You can pick it up for about $35 on Amazon.

These detectors are battery powered only so you’ll need to use and replace the 9-Volt batteries periodically. But don’t worry, there is a chirp that will let you know when the battery is low. You can mount these to the ceiling in your home and because it isn’t hard wired, you won’t need to bother with any electrical work at all. Which means you’ll save yourself time and money. Batteries should last about a year each and with your purchase, each detector comes with the first battery. Once the battery dips in voltage, the detector will chirp approximately once per minute to notify you, but there is a silence mode that will silence the notification for 8 hours. The alarm can be silenced for several minutes, but until the CO levels are safe, it will continue to alarm after you silence it.

2. First Alert CO615 Dual-Power Carbon Monoxide Plug-In Alarm

First Alert CO615 Dual-Power Carbon Monoxide Plug-In Alarm with Battery Backup and Digital Display

You’ll need to be cognizant of your placement with this detector because you may be tempted to plug it into the wall and leave it. It has a power cord that stores and secures inside the back of this device, but you’ll want to make sure to adhere to the guideline to keep detectors 5 feet from the ground. Should you place it in a counter top plug or a higher plug, the cord storage can be incredibly convenient, but otherwise you’ll need to use the mounting frame on the back of the device to hang it on your wall.

This alarm is about $25 on Amazon and will give you the details of your CO levels on it’s back lit display. It is dual powered, both by the electrical outlet and the battery backups (2 AA batteries), so you won’t need to worry during power outages. It gives a constant read of the levels, the battery level and its Peak Level Display will show you the highest concentration of CO measured since the unit was last reset.

3. Kidde C3010D Worry-Free Carbon Monoxide Alarm

Kidde C3010D Worry-Free Carbon Monoxide Alarm with Digital Display and 10 Year Sealed Battery

This unit has a digital display that will update every 15 minutes to show you your CO levels, even if they’re well within safe parameters. It has a Lithium battery that is sealed to prevent tampering and should last up to 10 years. Once the battery reaches the end of it’s life, it will chirp every 30-45 seconds and with a simple “Deactivation Switch” you can disable the alarm and immediately replace. And just to be safe, once disabled, the alarm will no longer fit on it’s hanging mount.

It comes with a 10 year warranty, which means it guarantees both the sensor and the battery for 10 years. And considering how busy life can be, this is a convenience you have to appreciate. Once you purchase your detector, it becomes active once clicked into place on the mounted base. You can have one shipped to you from Amazon for about $35 and you can select the slightly cheaper “Without digital display” option for just under $35. Amazon offers a professional installation option for about $100 per unit if you’re worried you won’t be able to hand install, but the reviews suggest you definitely will.

4. Nest Protect Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Alarm

Nest Protect Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Alarm Battery

This set of carbon dioxide detectors is a wonderful way to make sure that your entire house is protected and that you can monitor it closely. Like the original Nest Thermostat, this device will connect and upload data via your Wi-Fi, allowing you to access the detector from your phone anywhere you are. You will be able to download the Nest App and control it remotely and set it up to send notifications of any changes, alerts or alarms. It tests its own batteries and lets you read the reports and you can even silence it from your phone.

This is a combination of a smoke and a carbon monoxide detector which means you won’t have objects all over your walls making your house look like a factory. The sensor included in the device is designed to last 10 years and you can purchase either the battery or wired device, allowing you maximum versatility.  However, to get the set of three, you’ll need to get the battery operated ones and they come with six long life AA Energizer Ultimate Lithium batteries so this will be the only purchase you need to make for a while. You can order this set from Amazon for approximately $330.

5. Universal Security Instruments MC304SB Carbon Monoxide Smart Alarm

Universal Security Instruments MC304SB Carbon Monoxide Smart Alarm with 10 Year Sealed Battery

This carbon monoxide detector can be mounted or just placed on a shelf and will work just as well. (But remember you’re shooting for placement at least 5 feet off the ground). It is designed to last for 10 years and due to its long life battery, the manufacturer has deemed this a “Permanent Power” alarm. Of course, in this instance permanent actually means ten years, but a decade of protection is hardly something at which to scoff! The manufacturer offers a 10 year warranty to back this up and to make sure the battery never gets tampered with, it’s sealed, too. There is no wiring to install so you’ll never have to worry about power outages and once you activate it, it requires no maintenance.

The microprocessor included in the detector will prevent any false alarms and a single silence/test button is all that is needed to silence the alarm or the end of life notification chirp. You will need to hit the disable button once the battery is done and replace the unit entirely; once disabled it cannot be rehung. You can pick this up from Amazon for under $30.

Check out our full list of the best carbon monoxide detectors for more options. For more information on carbon monoxide and CO poisoning, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers a helpful guide on carbon monoxide’s impact on indoor air quality. The Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) also provides information on carbon monoxide poisoning.


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