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Do I Need a Carbon Monoxide Detector in my Home?

Absolutely, a carbon monoxide detector is a vital safety device for every home. This silent sentinel guards against the invisible, odorless threat of CO poisoning, ensuring your family's well-being. With proper placement and maintenance, it can be a lifesaver. Wondering where to install one and how to maintain it? Let's explore the best practices to keep your home safe.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Having a carbon monoxide detector in your home may not just make good sense, but may also be city or state law depending upon where you live. Since, unlike smoke, which you might detect if you were awake, carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless, it is unlikely you would be awakened by a leak in your home. Carbon monoxide can leak from any source that uses fossil fuels to create heat. These can include installed furnaces, boilers, water heaters, and fireplaces. Some portable heaters use fossil fuels and may require appropriate ventilation and the installation of a carbon monoxide detector.

These detectors are not expensive, and can readily be purchased at hardware stores. You can even find combination smoke/ carbon monoxide detectors. Having both just makes good sense for the health and safety of yourself and anyone who resides with you. When installing the detector, you should be certain that one is installed with 15 feet (4.57 m) of the entrance to any bedroom. If you have a large home, or a home with several levels, you should plan to install several in the home.

Since carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless, installing a detector in your home is a safe bet.
Since carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless, installing a detector in your home is a safe bet.

It also makes good sense to have any heat source, like gas furnaces or water heaters checked yearly by your local power company. This is normally a free service, along with pilot relighting, offered by local power and gas companies. Plan to have this done about a month prior to needing to use your heater; this may vary depending upon where you live. You may also want to schedule an appointment at least a month in advance because you may have to wait several weeks to a month for someone to check these levels, unless you believe there is currently a carbon monoxide leak. This latter situation is an emergency situation and should be checked immediately by your local gas or power company or the fire department.

Battery operated carbon monoxide detectors can be placed almost anywhere.
Battery operated carbon monoxide detectors can be placed almost anywhere.

Many people wonder what to do if their carbon monoxide detector goes off. This is an excellent question. If you note symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, extreme headache, dizziness, or illness, get outside immediately. If you live in an apartment that shares boiler heating, you may want to alert others as you vacate the building of the suspected leak. Call 911 once you are outdoors. If for some reason you cannot get outdoors immediately, open all the windows in your home and try to stand near an open window and breathe in fresh air. In either case call emergency services to have this potentially deadly leak checked out immediately.

Natural gas and other fuel burning appliances may pose a risk for carbon monoxide poisoning.
Natural gas and other fuel burning appliances may pose a risk for carbon monoxide poisoning.

Where there are no laws in a city or state that call for the installation of a carbon monoxide detector, it’s still safer to have one. Consider using one in any home with heat that burns fossil fuels, in any apartment, condo, or dorm room that uses boilers or gas heating, and basically in any home. It is tremendously tragic when people are killed by carbon monoxide poisoning, but it is a tragedy you can prevent by purchasing a carbon monoxide detector and installing it according to its instructions.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent HomeQuestionsAnswered contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Learn more...
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent HomeQuestionsAnswered contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

anon165591

Monoxide alarms are good protection for residential properties. Some appliances in your house produce carbon monoxide and when they produce high level of this, it's better to have monoxide alarms so that you can be warned right away. There are different kinds of monoxide alarms on the market, but the monoxide alarm placement is also important. So it's better to install monoxide alarms in your home!

anon52138

Yes, I recommend replacing them every three to five years. Most detectors have a cell life of five years from the time it is made. Take into account shelf time in the store and replace about every three to five years.

anon28749

I'm told that CO sensors in CO detectors lose their effectiveness with time and that detectors should be replaced ? year. Is this true and how often is replacement recommended?

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    • Since carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless, installing a detector in your home is a safe bet.
      By: Ray Kasprzak
      Since carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless, installing a detector in your home is a safe bet.
    • Battery operated carbon monoxide detectors can be placed almost anywhere.
      By: Serenethos
      Battery operated carbon monoxide detectors can be placed almost anywhere.
    • Natural gas and other fuel burning appliances may pose a risk for carbon monoxide poisoning.
      By: jokerpro
      Natural gas and other fuel burning appliances may pose a risk for carbon monoxide poisoning.
    • Detectors can warn of leaks of carbon monoxide caused by sources like gas furnaces.
      By: scaliger
      Detectors can warn of leaks of carbon monoxide caused by sources like gas furnaces.
    • Feelings of disorientation may occur as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning.
      By: chuugo
      Feelings of disorientation may occur as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning.
    • Extreme headaches or dizziness may be signs of carbon monoxide poisoning.
      By: SEPULTURA_FROM_HELL
      Extreme headaches or dizziness may be signs of carbon monoxide poisoning.
    • Carbon monoxide poisoning may cause difficulty concentrating.
      By: WavebreakMediaMicro
      Carbon monoxide poisoning may cause difficulty concentrating.