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Home Carbon Monoxide Alarms

How Safe Is Your Home Really?

When you’re at home, it’s only natural that you will feel relaxed and safe. However, there are some basic precautions that you need to take in order to make sure that the feeling of safety is based on a solid foundation.

carbon monoxide silent killerFor example, did you know that every year approximately 500 people die in the USA alone due to carbon monoxide poisoning? Many of these deaths occur in their own homes, the place where they should have been safe and secure.

Carbon monoxide it the number one cause of death due to poison in the USA. In addition to those tragic, and unnecessary deaths, somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 people become seriously ill due to carbon monoxide poisoning each year.

carbon monoxide safetyWhat Is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, tasteless and colorless gas that is a little less dense than atmospheric air. When present in high enough levels (higher than 35 parts per million), it is poisonous to humans and animals.

Carbon monoxide can be produced by burning things and heating things. So, if you have a gas burner, portable gas heaters, a gas boiler – or even if you just smoke cigarettes – you will have carbon monoxide sources present in your home. Even if you don’t have these sources inside your home, if you have an adjoining garage, you may get carbon monoxide in your house due to exhaust fumes.

Carbon monoxide isn’t a problem as long as the concentration doesn’t rise to unacceptable levels. That’s why you’re unlikely to have any problems if you’re barbecuing outside, burning leaves etc. Likewise, if your home is well ventilated, and your CO producing appliances are all well maintained and working properly, you are unlikely to have a serious problem.

What Can You Do To Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

Nest carbon monoxide alarmAs mentioned previously, carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless and tasteless. There’s absolutely no way you will be able to detect it yourself. What you need is a special carbon monoxide alarm.

As a matter of fact, in some states, these are compulsory items for all households. You can see which states require CO detectors here.

There are a variety of different types available. You can choose battery powered units, mains powered units that plug in to wall sockets, or mains powered units which have a battery backup system.

Battery powered monitors are great for use where there’s no convenient mains socket nearby – but be sure to check the battery from time to time. The manufacturer’s instructions will advise on the appropriate frequency of testing (as a rough guide, once every three months should be your maximum  time between tests).

Mains powered units are best where there is a suitable power outlet, and mains power with battery back up are best of all.

As a little food for thought, when there’s a power outage, many households will use heat sources involving combustion. These might be portable gas space heaters, camping stoves or just an open fire. That’s why there’s often an increase in carbon monoxide poisoning during power outages, and that’s why mains powered units are best when they come with a battery backup.

position of carbon monoxide alarmWhere To Position CO Detectors?

If you have a multi-level home, you should have carbon monoxide alarms on all floors, including the basement and the attic if it’s used.

Position a CO detector anywhere you have a potential source of carbon monoxide. However, in order to avoid false alarms, keep them at least 15 feet away from sources such as gas stoves, boilers, fires etc.

You should also avoid placing carbon monoxide alarms in high humidity areas such as bathrooms. Don’t put them in direct sunlight either or immediately adjacent to any appliances which generate a lot of heat.

One of the important things to bear in mind is that you will absolutely want your CO alarm to wake you if the carbon monoxide concentration increases to dangerous levels while you’re asleep. With that in mind, you might want to position one in, or near to the master bedroom. Check the volume of the alarm and position it accordingly.

It’s also worth noting that you can get combined smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Those are a great idea as combining the two features means that you can get added peace of mind and cut down on the number of checks you need to do and batteries that you need to replace periodically.

Here’s a short video which shows you how to position, install and maintain your carbon monoxide detectors:



  • Matt's Mom says:

    I do have one of these in my home. I have a single family ranch style home that is around 2300 sq. ft. I have one carbon monoxide alarm in the hallway, which is probably about the middle of the home. Close enough to the bedrooms to hear, and any where else for that matter. Is it necessary to have more than one? How far is the range that they can detect?

    • admin says:

      Hi Matt’s Mom – thanks for stopping by and taking time to comment.

      If you have a large home, I would certainly add an additional detector somewhere near the bedrooms. Position it at about knee height, which is, roughly speaking, where you and other family members will be breathing when your fast asleep in bed.

      that way, if carbon monoxide levels become too high, to the point where it might overcome you, rather than falling into a deep sleep, you will get an alarm.

  • Craig says:

    This is something that every home should have. I actually had these in my old home in Scotland but since I came to S.E. Asia, I haven’t bothered until now.

    I’m a bit unsure about using battery operated alarms. I just worry that the batteries will run out of juice. Do they beep if the battery is dead?

    • admin says:

      Hi Craig,

      Nice to meet a fellow Scot. Hope you’re enjoying life in SE Asia!

      Personally, I think that the mains powered ones with battery backup are best – as long as your power points are in good locations. If not, then battery powered ones might be a good choice.

      Most of them beep when their battery is getting low – but check the manufacturer’s instructions to be sure. Always a good idea to check the battery once a month of course. :o)

  • Jeremy says:

    This is a great article. I am glad someone is getting this info out there. CO is not something to mess with or even take your time thinking about it. I have 2 detectors in my house as well, and I even stress to people I know that are building a house or moving into one if they are planning on getting a CO detector. You would be surprised how many people actually ask me what that is. Great job and keep up the good work.

    • admin says:

      Hi Jeremy,

      Thanks for visiting. I’m pleased to hear that your home is safe – and also that you are spreading the word to other people. Keep it up!

  • Jonathan says:

    Man this is serious! I had no idea there were so many deaths and illness due to carbon monoxide. Why was this not such a big deal over a decade ago? Maybe I just didn’t hear about it.

    My landlord just installed a few of these in the home. They are combination smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. I was curious about them so I decided to research it. I will be sure to make sure I have them in my next home too.


    • admin says:

      Hi Jonathan,

      Great that you have a landlord who takes his responsibilities seriously! Definitely get some for your next place, better safe than sorry after all.

  • Tar says:

    Hello Jim,

    I wonder how much one detector cost. Is there any particular specification that is applicable for people who has a large house with a huge number of rooms?

    By the way, I am glad how dangerous carbon monoxide can be. The fatalities are unnecessary indeed if we do not take necessary precaution.

    • admin says:

      Hi Tar,

      Prices vary for the detectors – but you can probably budget on somewhere between $10 – $20 for one that will do the job. Obviously a very large house would need several of them.

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