Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless by-product of combustion. It's found in the fumes from burning fuel in cars or trucks, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges and furnaces. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to the flu: headache, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, general confusion, etc. According to the CDC, carbon monoxide poisoning is a leading cause of death in the home and is especially dangerous for children, the elderly and individuals with respiratory or breathing problems.
Carbon monoxide detectors are designed to alert you to problems before you start to feel any symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Proper placement is critical, though, in order for carbon monoxide detectors to work properly. Follow these tips to make sure your home has the right number of carbon monoxide detectors and that they're placed in appropriate spots.
Best Practices for Carbon Monoxide Detector Installation
- Make sure you have at least one carbon monoxide detector on each level of your home, including the basement.
- Locate carbon monoxide detectors near bedrooms – close enough so that they'll wake you up if they go off in the middle of the night.
- Mount detectors on the wall at least a couple feet below your ceiling or even lower. Carbon monoxide often won't rise all the way up to the ceiling (like smoke does) until the concentration of the gas is at a critically dangerous level. Additionally, some carbon monoxide detectors have digital readouts – mount those kinds of detectors at eye level so you can read them. If you have pets or curious children, you'll need to find somewhere the detector won't be bothered.
- The detecting mechanisms in carbon monoxide detectors need to stay at stable temperatures and humidities to work properly. Keep them out of direct sunlight and away from fixtures that generate heat (appliances, lights, radiators, etc.) and out of overly humid areas (bathrooms, laundry rooms, etc.). Keep in mind air flow, too: Don't mount carbon monoxide detectors by windows that are often opened or in dead air spaces.
- Don't cover the detectors. Keep them mounted out in the open and away from curtains, furniture or shelves that could potentially block them or interfere with normal air flow to the sensors.
- If your house has an attached garage, make sure you have a carbon monoxide detector mounted inside the house within 10 feet of the door to the garage. A running car could very easily elevate levels of carbon monoxide in the home.
- Make your carbon monoxide detectors easy to test. Put them in areas where you can easily reach the detectors and check them every six months or so and get in the habit of replacing them when the manufacturer recommends it (most carbon monoxide detectors are good for about five years or so).
By following these simple steps and giving some thought to where you'll be placing your carbon monoxide detectors, you can make sure you and your family remains safe from this silent killer.
Want to learn more about keeping your home and family safe? Read these life-saving tips for using smoke detectors.