Carbon Monoxide Detectors Help Keep Your Family Safe

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas produced by furnaces, stoves, water heaters, and other fuel-burning equipment that can build up in your home to dangerous levels. Exposure can cause flu-like symptoms and, in severe cases, death. Carbon monoxide detectors are the best way to protect your family from this invisible danger, but not all CO detectors are created equal. Here's how to choose the right one for your home.

Whether you want a basic model or something with smart features, there's a carbon monoxide detector out there for you. The most important thing is to install the device where it will be able to hear the 85-decibel alarm, which emits a loud, continuous siren when the level of carbon monoxide in the room reaches unsafe levels. The detectors can be hard-wired or plug in, and some models include battery backup in case of a power outage.

When shopping for a carbon monoxide detector, look for UL certification, which indicates that the device meets national safety standards. It's also a good idea to buy one with a digital display, which lets you see the concentration of CO in parts per million on the screen. Some models even feature a continuous stock ticker-like readout of the current level.

If you want to go beyond a standard alarm, consider a model that can send you alerts via phone or email and that interconnects with other devices in your home. There are also two-in-one devices that function as smoke and CO detectors, and some can even sense other hazardous gases.

A good place to start is with the First Alert brand, which offers a range of affordable carbon monoxide detectors with solid customer reviews. Customers say the units are easy to use and install, work well, and offer great value for the price. Another option is Kidde, which makes both standalone carbon monoxide detectors and combo alarms that also detect explosive gas and smoke.

If you're interested in smart functionality, consider a model that's compatible with Google Home or Amazon Alexa. The Onelink Safe & Sound, for example, has a built-in speaker, allows you to control your music and smart home devices with voice commands, and has a 10-year warranty. It's a little more expensive than the other options on this list, but it's an excellent choice for people who value smart technology and want to save money on their carbon monoxide detector.

Whatever you decide on, remember to test your carbon monoxide detector monthly with the "Test" button, and replace the batteries every six months. A carbon monoxide detector that's not working correctly can fail to alert you to a problem, so it's worth the investment to make sure yours is in tip-top shape. Also, be sure to check your local codes regarding the types and locations of carbon monoxide detectors. Most places require them in all sleeping areas and near all fuel-burning appliances.

A carbon monoxide detector is a crucial piece of safety equipment for every home. It will alert you and your family to dangerous levels of CO gas that can form from malfunctioning or neglected fuel-burning appliances such as water heaters, furnaces, and clothes dryers. It’s important to choose a model that can detect CO and other hazardous gases while also working with your existing smoke or heat detectors in order to ensure that you receive the most accurate information possible.

Additionally, some models feature added safety and smart home functions like voice warnings, location detection that points to the source of a leak, memory functions that record peak CO concentrations, and more. You’ll also want to consider the power source and installation options. Both plug-in and hard-wired models are available, though those that require a professional installation should be installed by an electrician or other qualified contractor to avoid any potential electrical problems.

Lastly, if you choose a model with smart features, such as those that work with Google Home or Alexa, you can get updates straight to your smartphone. Some will even allow you to test or silence your detector while you’re away. For those who live in a state where CO and smoke detectors are required by law, it may be worth investing in a two-in-one unit that can detect both threats and prevent costly repairs and property damage.

If you’re unsure where to start, our top picks are a good place to begin your search. These detectors feature a variety of useful functions and are backed by top brands. They can be either plug-in or hardwired, and come with a battery backup to keep them running during a power outage. Plug-in models are typically cheaper than hardwired units, but they can be difficult to install and can lose sensitivity over time. If you opt for a plug-in model, we recommend choosing one that is hardwired with a battery backup to ensure your home will remain safe during a power outage. Additionally, we recommend placing your carbon monoxide detectors in the ceiling rather than in a wall because CO rises and can easily gather in the corners of rooms or near fireplaces. This will provide the most effective protection for your home.