Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detector Buyer’s Guide

Top Carbon Monoxide Detectors - 2017

Carbon monoxide (CO) is called the "invisible killer" because it's a toxic gas that you can't smell or see. A carbon monoxide detector can alert you to high levels of carbon monoxide in your home and help you get to safety immediately.

An Overview of Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) has been called the "silent" and "invisible killer" because it's a scentless, colorless, and tasteless toxic gas. It's the number one cause of death due to poisoning in America. Any time you burn something—like gasoline, natural gas, wood, oil, propane, or charcoal—carbon monoxide is released into the air. In outdoor spaces, this usually isn't a health hazard because there is enough area to dissipate and particles never amount to a toxic level. The danger comes when carbon monoxide is released in a contained area like your home, RV, or garage.

You won't know from taste, smell, or sight that carbon monoxide is poisoning you, but your body will. If you have carbon monoxide poisoning, you may feel dizzy, become nauseous or throw up, develop a headache, get confused, and/or pass out.

Every year, 400 people die from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning (from fuel burning, not fires) and 20,000 are admitted to the emergency room. If you become unconscious while carbon monoxide is filling your home, your odds of dying or becoming very ill are frighteningly high. That's where carbon monoxide detectors come into play. Once installed, they can alert you about high levels of carbon monoxide in your home and help you get to safety immediately.

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.

Biometric sensors use gels that change color after absorbing a certain amount of carbon monoxide. Metal oxide semiconductors have silica chips that send electrical signals to trigger an alarm. Electrochemical sensors are considered to be the best in the industry. They use chemical solutions and electrodes that release currents to sound an alarm.

You'll want to install carbon monoxide detectors like smoke detectors—on every level of your home. For areas with more carbon monoxide producing appliances, like your kitchen, garage, and basement, you should install multiple detectors.

Types of Carbon Monoxide Detectors

There are several types of carbon monoxide detectors available for purchase. While they all have varying levels of sophistication, all models will alert you if dangerous levels of carbon monoxide accumulate. Some include multiple functions. Here are the different types out there:

Dual-function

Some carbon monoxide detectors also have smoke detectors or other gas sensors built-in.

Digital

These devices have a digital screen to show you levels of carbon monoxide in your home.

Smart

Smart carbon monoxide alarms are the most advanced option available. They do their own diagnostics to make sure they're working properly and sync with home automation apps so you can monitor your home from afar.

Hardwired

Instead of using batteries, these carbon monoxide detectors are wired into your home's electrical grid. Unless the power goes out, you won't have to worry about devices losing battery and failing to work.

Battery-operated

This type is as basic as they come. Battery-operated carbon monoxide detectors may or may not have a digital screen. You'll need to check your batteries once every three months to ensure your detectors are working properly.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

After much research, we've found the best carbon monoxide detectors available. From basic battery operated to smart devices, you can find the top options here.

Top Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Detector

Price

Sensor

Capabilities

Pros

Cons

Sensor

Electrochemical sensor

Capabilities

Smart, digital, home automation, dual-sensor with smoke detection, hardwire, battery operated

Pros

Carbon monoxide + smoke detection

App and home automation

Advanced technology

Cons

More expensive than others

First Alert Onelink

Read Review

Sensor

N/A

Capabilities

Smart, digital, home automation, dual-sensor with smoke detection, 10-year battery, Apple compatible

Pros

Carbon monoxide + smoke detection

App and home automation

Advanced technology

Cons

Most Expensive

Sensor

Electrochemical carbon monoxide sensor

Capabilities

Digital display, hardwire

Pros

Text/email alerts

Multi-functional with smoke, freezing, and other monitors

Advanced technology

Cons

More expensive

Listening sensor, no actual gas detection included

Need multiple devices to perform full function

Sensor

Electrochemical carbon monoxide sensor

Capabilities

Digital display, hardwire

Pros

Hardwires into electrical

Backup battery

Digital display

Cons

No home automation

Not a dual smoke detector

Sensor

Electrochemical carbon monoxide sensor

Capabilities

Battery operated

Pros

Affordable

Easy to install

Highest quality sensor

Cons

Not digital

No hardwire option

Not a dual smoke detector

Kidde KN-COPP-B-LPM

Read Review

Sensor

Electrochemical carbon monoxide sensor

Capabilities

Battery operated, digital display

Pros

Digital Display

Battery Operated

#3 alarm on Amazon

Cons

No hardwire option

Not a dual smoke detector

Yondwin Carbon Monoxide Detector

Read Review

Sensor

Electrochemical carbon monoxide sensor

Capabilities

Battery operated, digital display

Pros

Popular Seller

Digital Display

Voice Warning

Cheap

Cons

Battery operated only

No home automation

Not a dual smoke detector

Safe-T-Alert Flush Mount

Read Review

Sensor

N/A

Capabilities

Hardwire, includes propane gas detection

Pros

Mounts flush to the wall

Specific for mobile homes, but works anywhere

Dual alarm with propane gas detection

Cons

Expensive

No digital display

No backup battery

Sensor

Electrochemical carbon monoxide sensor

Capabilities

Battery-operated, digital display

Pros

Affordable

5-Year battery life

Digital Display

Cons

No Home Automation

No hardwire option

Sensor

N/A

Capabilities

Carbon monoxide and smoke detector syncing, home automation

Pros

Compatible with carbon monoxide detectors made after 1996

Simple home monitoring

Can call for help

Cons

This is not a carbon monoxide alarm

Can only detect and alert you of problems

*SafeWise has conducted impartial research to recommend products. This is not a guarantee. Each individual’s unique needs should be considered when deciding on chosen products.

Carbon Monoxide Tips

Where To Install Carbon Monoxide Detectors

The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends putting a carbon monoxide detector on every level of your home—with additional detectors near fuel-burning appliances. For instance, your kitchen, garage, and basement are probably where you'll want more than one carbon monoxide detector since those areas have the most carbon monoxide producing products in your home. Also make sure you install detectors close to bedrooms, so alarms will wake you up if you're sleeping.


Know What To Do And What Not To Do

Lighting a fire in your fireplace is okay because it's properly ventilated. However, if you do the following, you could cause dangerous levels of carbon monoxide to build in your home.

DO

Always vent gas appliances properly

Get your chimney checked annually to ensure proper ventilation

DON'T

Never burn gas grills inside your home

Don't use your gass stove/oven for heating

Don't leave the car running with the garage door closed

Don't patch or seal vent pipes with tape or unapproved products or carbon monoxide could leak into your home

Don't ever burn charcoal inside

Never run a generator in your home or within 20 feet of your home's doors, windows, and garage

Don't turn on your car if the tailpipe is blocked (by snow or anything else)


Remember What Can Make Carbon Monoxide Gas

Anything that burns will create carbon monoxide. It's not just your stove, fireplace, or grill either. Here are some of the things that can create carbon monoxide when turned on:

  • Appliances
  • Gas grills
  • Gas stoves
  • Gas or oil-burning furnaces
  • Fuel-burning water heaters
  • Non-electric space heaters
  • Tools
  • Snowblowers
  • Lawnmowers
  • Chain saws
  • Pressure washers
  • Generators
  • Non-electric cars, trucks, and boats

Carbon Monoxide Facts

Electricity Doesn't Produce Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide gas is a product of combustion. Unless something is burned, carbon monoxide won’t be produced. Electric cars (100%), electric toasters, vacuum cleaners, and water heaters don’t give off carbon monoxide. Only fuels can produce carbon monoxide and create health risks. That’s not to say that carbon monoxide can only be produced by humans. Volcanoes, forest fires, and lightning can produce carbon monoxide too.

Who Carbon Monoxide Affects Most

Some diseases impact the young and elderly more than healthy, middle aged people. Carbon monoxide doesn’t discriminate. If you inhale too much of it, any person at any age can become sick or die from exposure.

Safe Levels of Carbon Monoxide

Breathing small amounts of carbon monoxide won’t do you serious harm. The World Health Organization has set safe carbon monoxide levels at less than nine parts per million (ppm) for an eight-hour period and below 25 ppm for a one-hour period. If you have a digital carbon monoxide detector, it’ll tell you the parts per million in your home so you can monitor and maintain safe levels. The non-digital models will beep once this threshold is crossed.

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