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Best Carbon Monoxide Detectors of 2018
Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless gas that can be fatal if the levels in your home get too high. Our shopping guide is here to help you find the best carbon monoxide detectors, so you can have peace of mind and keep your loved ones safe.
The Best Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Carbon monoxide (CO) is nicknamed the silent killer for good reason. This colorless, odorless gas is produced by many of the home-heating appliances we rely on to keep us warm all winter long but is deadly when enough of it builds up inside the home. The best way to keep your family safe is to invest in a carbon monoxide detector that can alert you if CO builds to unsafe levels.
With your loved ones' lives on the line, you want to be certain you choose the right carbon monoxide detector. That means figuring out the best type, sensor, display style, and alarm, as well as any other features that would best protect your household. Read on to learn more about carbon monoxide detectors and what to look for as you shop.
There are battery-operated, plug-in, and hard-wired carbon monoxide detectors. Which is right for you?
Battery-operated carbon monoxide detectors are extremely easy to install, and they work in the event of a power failure, which is reassuring. The batteries must be changed about twice a year to keep them in proper working order. Plug-in carbon monoxide detectors simply plug into an outlet, which removes the battery-changing requirement. However, you cannot rely on a plug-in carbon monoxide detector in the event of a power outage.
Hard-wired carbon monoxide detectors connect to the existing wiring in your home, so they're permanently installed on a wall or ceiling. Most have a battery backup in case the power goes out. These carbon monoxide detectors usually require professional installation.
Not only are there different power sources to choose from, but there are also different carbon monoxide sensors to choose from. There are three types of carbon monoxide sensors available today: biomimetic, electrochemical, and semiconductor sensors.
Biomimetic sensors utilize a synthetic form of hemoglobin that reacts to carbon monoxide by darkening in color. Some detectors with biomimetic sensors allow you to actually see the color change itself; others tip an audible alarm and indicator light when danger is present.
Electrochemical sensors generate a current based on the concentration of CO in the air. A carbon monoxide detector with an electrochemical sensor is usually extremely accurate, lasts up to five years, and doesn't consume much power.
Semiconductor sensors feature a semiconductor tin dioxide that rests on a ceramic base and is connected to an integrated circuit. The presence of CO reduces resistance within the circuit; a high enough current passes through and triggers an alarm.
As you can see, some types of carbon monoxide sensors are faster and more accurate than others. However, because carbon monoxide tends to build up slowly—and there is a fairly large gap between safe and dangerous levels—all three types of sensors are usually effective.
Certification Is Important
No matter which type of CO detector and sensor you opt for, it's smart to get a product that has been certified by an independent testing authority like the Underwriters Laboratories (UL). UL has a list of standards for the sensitivity and alarm threshold for home CO detectors that a model must meet to be certified. If you purchase a certified product, you know that device is effective enough to keep your home safe.
CO Detector Nice-to-Have Features
Doing double duty
Some carbon monoxide detectors work exclusively to monitor the CO levels in your home, but others perform double duty, serving as both smoke detectors and CO detectors. Many homeowners find it convenient to have an all-in-one detector rather than buying separate smoke detectors and CO detectors. You'll pay a bit more for a dual detector, but it may be more cost-efficient overall to buy a device that serves both purposes.
Though not necessary, it's convenient to have a carbon monoxide detector with a digital display. These units are easy to read, and many provide other helpful stats such as the highest recorded level of CO during a specific period and the status of the unit's battery life.
If you live in a larger home, you may want to invest in CO detectors that connect to one another. Devices with an interconnectivity feature actually communicate with each other, so if one detector picks up on dangerous CO levels, all the alarms in the house go off.
Carbon monoxide detectors can also be connected to smoke detectors, though you must check that all the devices are manufactured by the same brand.
Where to Place a Carbon Monoxide Detector
Carbon monoxide is lighter than the air inside your home, so it's best to install detectors high on a wall or on the ceiling; make sure they're at least five feet off the ground. If you live in an apartment or single-floor home, one carbon monoxide detector may be all you need. But as a general rule, you should have a carbon monoxide detector for each level of your home, including your attic and basement.
Try to find a central spot for the detectors on each floor. An area close to the bedroom(s) is ideal. Avoid placement near doorways and windows, as the air from outside may throw off the readings. Don't install a carbon monoxide detector in the vicinity of a fireplace or an appliance with open flames (like a kitchen stove), either.
Make sure it's loud
Placement is important, but so is the loudness of your carbon monoxide alarm. Choose a model with at least an 85-decibel alarm. If you have family members who are hard of hearing, consider a carbon monoxide detector that varies the frequency of its alarm. This can make it easier for individuals with hearing loss to pick up the sound.
Some carbon monoxide detectors don't just sound an alarm; they also provide a voice alert that tells you where the risk is located in the house. This feature is particularly useful in dual smoke/CO detectors and interconnected alarms because it tells you which alarm has been triggered in the home.
How Much to Spend on a CO Detector
Basic plug-in or battery-operated detectors are usually the most affordable options, ranging from $10 to $35. Hard-wired carbon monoxide detectors typically run from $35 to $60. You'll pay the most for smart CO/smoke detector combos, which generally cost between $150 and $225. Regardless of which option or options you choose, it's vitally important that you find a place for this lifesaver in your home!