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Carbon Monoxide vs. Carbon Dioxide: The Differences You Should Know

May 15, 2019|

So, you’ve got smoke alarms, smart locks on your doors, maybe even a doorbell camera—but what about carbon monoxide detectors?

Enhanced home security can be accomplished with the right combination of different detectors and sensors, but homeowners often forget to add CO detectors to that list. Perhaps this is due to the confusion around CO and CO2. Do you know the difference?

What's the difference between CO and CO2?

Carbon monoxide (CO) and carbon dioxide (CO2) are quite similar. They’re both odorless, colorless gasses with similar names, which is why they’re so often confused with one another. Another quality they share is they can both be deadly if they exceed certain levels.

Let's walk through the differences between carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide as well as some information on how you can prevent these gases from negatively impacting the health of you and your family.

Vivint Carbon Monoxide Detector
Keep reading to understand the impact of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide and how you can keep your home and family safe.

What is carbon dioxide?

Carbon dioxide is one part carbon and two parts oxygen. This is a natural gas in the atmosphere that is a byproduct of our existence on Earth – specifically, human and animal respiration, the combustion of fossil fuels and wood, fermentation, and other causes.

While carbon dioxide is a naturally-occurring gas, it can be harmful in highly concentrated amounts. As it currently stands, the average CO2 level on the planet is 400 ppm (parts per million).

Because of its natural characteristics, CO2 poisoning is quite rare. Internal combustion engines or leaking CO2 tanks do have the ability to subject individuals to dangerously high levels of CO2, so it doesn’t hurt to know the signs and symptoms, which can include dizziness, fatigue, and headaches.

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is a far more common threat to watch out for. This gas can be generated naturally and artificially. Natural causes may include forest fires or volcanic activity, or any other cause of partial oxidation of methane in the atmosphere.

The unnatural causes are what homeowners need to be aware of. Carbon monoxide can be produced by fuel-burning appliances that lack a sufficient amount of oxygen during operation. Appliances producing CO in an area that is poorly ventilated can cause CO to reach an unsafe, even life-threatening level.

Sadly, carbon monoxide poisoning is all too common—especially during the winter season—and can take a heavy toll on its victims. Because this gas is odorless, those who suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning aren’t usually aware of it until they’ve fallen ill.

Common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning

In addition to understanding the dangers of carbon monoxide, as well as safety and detection, it’s also extremely important for homeowners to recognize the signs and symptoms of CO poisoning.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a result of too much CO in your blood. This happens when your red blood cells start to replace oxygen with carbon monoxide, since that’s what they have abundant access to. In extreme cases, CO poisoning can result in brain damage or death.

Learn how to spot the symptoms early with this list:

  • Headaches for no apparent reason
  • Dizziness or feelings of vertigo
  • Weakness of the muscles
  • Blurred vision
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Mild to severe nausea
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness

Vivint Carbon Monoxide Detector
It's important to be aware of the common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning and to protect your home with carbon monoxide detectors.

What can cause dangerous levels of CO?

There are a few different causes of carbon monoxide poisoning. If you use any of the following appliances in your home, you should definitely have CO detectors around your home to alert you of a spike in carbon monoxide levels:

  • Gas water heaters, ovens, furnaces, or space heaters
  • Oil-burning furnaces
  • Kerosene space heaters
  • Wood-burning stoves
  • Gas or wood fireplaces

Carbon monoxide safety and detection

Carbon monoxide has no taste, smell, or color, making it an invisible threat to all who occupy a home with high levels of CO. Luckily, this unnoticeable gas can easily be detected and prevented with modern day technology.

Carbon monoxide detectors are the best and easiest way to prevent CO poisoning. Buy a set of CO detectors and install one just outside every sleeping area in your home—usually in a hallway.

Make sure your carbon monoxide detectors are functioning properly by conducting tests according to the manufacturer’s recommendations and replacing the batteries regularly. We suggest you change the CO detector batteries as often as you change the batteries in your smoke alarms—which should be twice a year.

In addition to installing CO detectors around your home, there are a few extra things you can do to prevent unsafe levels of carbon monoxide in your home.

  • Never leave your car running in the garage, with or without the door open. This is especially important if your garage is attached to your home.
  • Make sure your fuel-burning appliances are in areas that are well ventilated.
  • Keep your fireplace clean and in good repair, including chimneys and flues.

Protect your family with CO detectors

Carbon monoxide poisoning is all too common in America, but it doesn’t have to be. With carbon monoxide detectors, you can make sure your family never suffers the symptoms and dangers of CO poisoning.

But don't stop there. Protect your family even further by installing smart carbon monoxide detectors from Vivint. Our smart CO alarms take protection to the next level, offering seamless smart home integration, custom push notifications, and an electrochemical sensor for immediate and accurate detection.

Protect your home and loved ones with a top-of-the-line home security system from Vivint. In addition to intuitive carbon monoxide detectors, we provide a number of different devices designed to prevent disaster, deter criminal activity, and alert your family immediately should danger present itself.

Call one of our Smart Home Pros today at 844.774.1291 for a free quote on a Vivint system.

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