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How Do Carbon Monoxide Detectors Work?

Aug 22, 2019|

Vivint Carbon monoxide detector

Kudos to you if you’re implementing fire safety precautions when it comes to protecting home and family. By the end of this article, we hope you’ll understand the importance of safeguarding against carbon monoxide (CO) as well.

How Do Carbon Monoxide Detectors Work?

Carbon monoxide (CO) detectors are made to measure levels of carbon monoxide over time and to sound an alarm when carbon monoxide levels become dangerous to the point where they could potentially cause poisoning.

There are a few different forms of carbon monoxide detectors. They’re smarter than CO detectors of yesterday and generally come battery powered with battery backup—for extra protection—and a digital display so you can monitor levels. Most incorporate one of the following carbon monoxide detection mechanisms: a biomimetic sensor, electrochemical sensor, or a metal oxide semiconductor.

Here’s how each works:

  • Biomimetic sensor: A special gel turns a different color when it comes in contact with carbon monoxide. The shift in color causes the CO alarm to go off. While this might be the most reliable type of alarm, it is more expensive and generally less common for typical household use. It is used most often in hospitals and hotels.
  • Electrochemical sensor: This type of sensor consists of an electrochemical cell that contains two electrodes, a connecting wire, and an electrolyte-like sulfuric acid. When unsafe levels of carbon monoxide cause a change in the electrical current, the alarm sounds. These types of sensors are now likely the most common types in the United States and Europe, as they don’t require much power and have a lifespan of five years or more. The Vivint Carbon Monoxide Detector employs this type of sensor and is battery operated.
  • Metal oxide semiconductor: Measuring resistance, small wires on a ceramic base are heated to measure carbon monoxide levels. Resistance is lowered when carbon monoxide is sensed, signaling the alarm to sound. This type of detection equipment requires substantial power and may not be as effective as the electrochemical sensor, which is why it’s less commonly used.

How do you set up a carbon monoxide detector?

Since your family’s safety is of utmost importance, it’s best to have a trained professional install your CO detector. Not only will they ensure it is installed correctly, but they’ll also do it quickly. Leave the hassle to the pros and focus on keeping your family protected from harmful carbon monoxide.

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Where is the best place to install a carbon monoxide detector?

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) suggests positioning carbon monoxide detectors outside each sleeping area or bedroom, on each floor of the home, and in those locations required by local laws.

Vivint Carbon Monoxide detector

Why is carbon monoxide so dangerous?

Carbon monoxide harms the body when inhaled because it expels oxygen from the blood, which means vital organs like the heart and brain don’t get the oxygen they need.

The initial symptoms of CO exposure include shortness of breath and nausea. But it only takes a few minutes for this toxic gas to overcome individuals, causing them to lose consciousness—and in serious instances, suffer brain damage or suffocate.

And carbon monoxide poisoning doesn't just affect people. Pets can also suffer from CO poisoning, leading to illness, internal damage, or even death.

This poisonous gas is especially dangerous because it’s virtually undetectable—it’s tasteless, colorless, and odorless. Unlike a fire, there often are no concrete signs like smoke or heat that carbon monoxide is present.

CO safety is just as important as fire safety. That’s why you want to make sure you install the right detector—carbon monoxide poisoning is preventable with the proper CO alarm.

What does a carbon monoxide detector do?

A battery-operated carbon monoxide detector is designed to alert your family to deadly fumes that come as byproducts of fire and burning wood, and fuel-burning appliances that use gasoline, propane, natural gas, coal, and heating oil.

That means fuel-burning appliances inside and outside the home can cause carbon monoxide poisoning including water heaters, wood burning stoves, clothes dryers, and water heaters. Idling vehicles are also culprits.

How essential is a carbon monoxide detector for home safety?

Carbon monoxide detection is extremely valuable when considering home safety products and alarms. While most people think about fire safety and protect their homes with smoke alarms, they tend to overlook the need for carbon monoxide detectors.

This is troublesome since carbon monoxide is so dangerous and almost impossible to detect without an alarm.

Make sure your home—and especially each sleeping area—is protected. While multiple companies, like First Alert, offer battery-powered CO detectors, connecting a CO detector to an integrated Vivint system provides an extra level of security. If the carbon monoxide alarm sounds, you’ll be notified on the hub in your home and on your smartphone through our app. And our professional monitoring team can even send first responders if needed. This means your home and everyone in it is protected no matter where you are.

How do you get a carbon monoxide detector?

Contact us to get the peace of mind that comes with knowing your family is safe and protected from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Get a free quote today.

A Vivint Smart Home Pro will contact you within 24 hours. Or skip the form and call now: 844.481.8630.

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