One of the reasons carbon monoxide is so dangerous is because it's colorless and odorless, making it almost impossible to detect—unless you have a carbon monoxide detector.
Carbon monoxide detectors are a must-have for your home. Knowing how to install them and where to place them can help ensure you get the most accurate and timely warning.
How to install carbon monoxide detectors
The first step in carbon monoxide safety is making sure you have working carbon monoxide detectors in your home. Unlike smoke detectors, CO detectors aren’t required by law, unless you live in one of these 26 states where all homes must have working CO alarms.
Even if it’s not required by law, it’s perhaps the easiest and most effective way to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. If your home doesn’t have carbon monoxide detectors, you can purchase them from any hardware store and install them yourself.
At minimum, you’ll need a CO detector for every level of your home, including the basement, in order to detect carbon monoxide levels throughout the house. There are several different types of CO alarms on the market, so how you install them depends on the type you get.
Hard-wired carbon monoxide detectors are integrated into your home’s existing wiring system, similar to a smoke detector. One of the main benefits of hard-wired CO detectors is they are linked to each other, so when one alarm goes off, they all sound. The downside is the installation can be time-consuming unless you get them professionally installed.
Battery-powered CO alarms are simple to install. They can even be placed on a ledge or moved throughout the house. You can also get battery-powered CO detectors, like the Vivint CO Detector, that integrate with each other and your smart home system. One potential downside is the batteries will need to be replaced over time. You will also need to remember to check the batteries every six months.
A plug-in CO detector uses an AC adapter to plug into any outlet. Installation is simple, but the obvious downside to this type is the limitations for placement. Additionally, this type of detector requires battery backups in case the power goes out, so you will still need to check and change batteries.
Where to install carbon monoxide detectors
According to the National Fire Protection Association, you should install your carbon monoxide alarms in the following places:
- Outside every sleeping area
- On every level of your home
- Areas required by your local law
These are the recommended minimums. It’s particularly important to place carbon monoxide detectors outside bedroom doors; if an alarm goes off in the middle of the night, it should be close enough to sleeping areas to wake up everyone in the home. Simply put, a good rule of thumb is to place CO detectors in the same areas you’d place your smoke detectors.
In order to protect yourself and your family against carbon monoxide poisoning, experts recommend placing CO alarms throughout other areas of your home as well, including:
- Near sources of CO. Place CO detectors 5-20 feet from common sources of carbon monoxide in the home, such as your water heater, furnace, or space heaters. Make sure you don’t place detectors too close to the sources, which could result in false alarms.
- Near your attached garage. Running vehicles produce carbon monoxide through their exhaust systems. When a car is in motion or idling in an open space, carbon monoxide and other emissions dissipate and are released into the air as pollution. In enclosed spaces like a garage, however, the concentration of CO can quickly reach deadly levels and can seep into your home.
When deciding where to place your carbon monoxide detectors, make sure you don’t place them near windows or sources of blowing air, which can prevent your alarm from accurately detecting CO levels.
High or low?
When it comes to whether you should place your CO alarm closer to the floor or ceiling, there are many differing opinions.
Because carbon monoxide is slightly lighter than air, some recommend that you place it on the ceiling or at least 5 feet from the floor. However, some studies show carbon monoxide doesn’t settle at the floor, float in the middle, or rise to the top; rather, it disperses at an equal concentration throughout the room. Based on that information, it would be fine to put your CO detector anywhere in the area.
If you’re unsure where to place your carbon monoxide detector, your best bet is to follow the recommendations from the manufacturer. If you’re having your CO alarm professionally installed, your installer will make recommendations.
Vivint Smart Home Pros, for example, will help you determine the ideal placement for your detector based on the layout of your home, proximity to bedrooms, and location of your appliances.
The importance of carbon monoxide detectors
No home should be without carbon monoxide detectors. Because the gas is odorless and colorless, it’s impossible to detect it without an alarm.
The most common carbon monoxide dangers are also found in most homes, making CO alarms even more crucial. Sources of this dangerous gas includes space heaters, furnaces, back-drafting from unvented appliances, gas stoves, generators and other gasoline-powered equipment, and exhaust from attached garages.
When carbon monoxide levels reach unhealthy levels, many people start to experience flu-like symptoms such as weakness, headaches, vomiting, dizziness, and fatigue.
The more exposure a person has, the more serious the symptoms become and can escalate to a pounding headache, confusion, and rapid heart rate. In large amounts or with prolonged exposure, carbon monoxide levels become even more dangerous, causing loss of consciousness and ultimately death.
Unfortunately, many of these symptoms are present in a number of other illnesses, and people may not associate them with CO poisoning. A carbon monoxide detector can help prevent illness and death by alerting you to dangerous levels so you can seek help.
What to do when your CO alarm goes off
So what do you do if your alarm goes off? First of all, don’t ignore the beeping coming from your alarm.
The sensors in carbon monoxide alarms respond based on the concentration of CO in the air—the higher the concentration, the faster the alarm will respond. For low levels of carbon dioxide, it might take the alarm an hour to sense and respond. If levels are high, the alarm detects them in as little as four minutes. High levels of exposure can bring symptoms quickly, so it’s important to take action.
If your alarm sounds and you or your family members are experiencing symptoms, you should:
- Immediately vacate your family and pets from the home and into fresh air.
- Call 911 from your cell phone or a neighbor’s home.
- Do not go back into your home until emergency responders have declared it safe.
If your alarm sounds and no one in your home is experiencing symptoms, you should:
- Open the windows and doors to let air circulate to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Turn off possible sources of carbon monoxide, like space heaters or gas appliances.
- Call the fire department to come and inspect the problem.
Most carbon monoxide detectors will indicate a low battery, but it’s important to check your batteries and CO alarms to ensure they’re working at least twice a year. The CDC also recommends replacing your CO detectors once every five years.
How to choose the right carbon monoxide detector
The right carbon monoxide detector can mean the difference between life and death, so choosing the best one is important.
In terms of features and benefits, Vivint’s CO detectors are the clear choice. Some of the key features that set them apart include:
- 24/7 monitoring. What if your carbon monoxide detector goes off when you’re not home? With Vivint’s 24/7 professional monitoring service, our team will notify the proper authorities for you.
- Battery powered for easy placement and positioning. Vivint’s CO detectors aren’t hard-wired, so you can place them wherever you want. It also makes it easy to reposition them if needed without adjusting wiring, so if you decide to change your home office to a baby’s room, you can easily move your detector.
- Smart home integration. Carbon monoxide detectors are part of a complete smart home system. Vivint’s smart home home automation means all our products work together seamlessly.
- Monitoring radius. The Vivint CO Detector monitors and detects carbon monoxide levels within a 35-foot radius, so you know you're protected throughout your home.
- Mobile notifications. If your CO alarm happens to go off while you're away from home, you'll receive a mobile notification on the Vivint Smart Home app right away. You can then call your family members at home and instruct them what to do until help arrives.
Vivint's CO Detectors provide your home with the protection you need against carbon monoxide poisoning. Best of all, they work together with your entire smart home system, so you know your home is being protected against everything from carbon monoxide to fire to intruders.
Let Vivint Smart Home protect your home
With a Vivint Smart Home, you can keep your home and family safe and connected. Contact us today at 800.646.1469 for a free consultation, and let Vivint's Smart Home Pros customize a smart home system for you.