Why You Need a Carbon Monoxide Detector

Carbon monoxide detector
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You probably have a smoke alarm in your home. After all, new homes come with them already installed and many communities have laws that require them to be installed.

What about a carbon monoxide detector? Do you have any installed in your home? Do you need one?

The importance of having a carbon monoxide detector is often underestimated or simply forgotten by many parents. Unfortunately, carbon monoxide sources, such as furnaces, generators, and gas heaters, are common in homes and can put your family at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning.

In fact, according to the CDC, approximately 50,000 people each year are treated in emergency rooms for accidental carbon monoxide exposure. And at least 430 people die each year from non-fire related carbon monoxide exposures.

The CDC also reports that common sources of carbon monoxide exposure include:

  • Oil and gas furnaces
  • Motor vehicles
  • Stove/Gas range
  • Gas line leaks
  • Gas water heaters
  • Generators
  • Space heaters

So you should definitely have a carbon monoxide detector in your home if you have any appliances that are not electric and that burn natural or liquefied petroleum gas, oil, wood, coal, or other fuels, or if you have a home with an attached garage.

Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

These guidelines from the CDC can help you avoid exposing your family to carbon monoxide:

  • Have your heating system, water heater, and any other gas, oil, or coal-burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
  • Install a battery-operated CO detector in your home and check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall.
  • If your CO detector sounds, evacuate your home immediately and telephone 911.
  • Seek prompt medical attention if you suspect CO poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed, or nauseated.
  • Do not use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove, or other gasoline or charcoal-burning device inside your home, basement, or garage or near a window.
  • Do not run a car or truck inside a garage attached to your house, even if you leave the door open.
  • Do not burn anything in a stove or fireplace that is not vented.
  • Do not heat your house with a gas oven.

Symptoms of CO Exposure

Depending on the degree of exposure, carbon monoxide can cause the following symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Chest tightness
  • Confusion

Remember that carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless, so without a CO detector, it can build up in your home without your knowledge.

Buy a CO Detector

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, you should install a CO detector/alarm that meets the requirements of the current UL standard 2034 or the requirements of the IAS 6-96 standard. Install a CO detector/alarm in the hallway near every separate sleeping area of the home. Make sure the detector cannot be covered up by furniture or draperies.

Here is a sampling of carbon monoxide detectors that are available.

  • First Alert Combination Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Detector
  • First Alert Battery Operated Carbon Monoxide Detector
  • First Alert Plug-In Carbon Monoxide Detector
  • Kidde Nighthawk Combination Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detector
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Article Sources
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  1. National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Carbon Monoxide Detector Requirements, Laws and Regulations. Published March 27, 2018.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: Frequently Asked Questions. Updated July 17, 2020.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: Prevention Guidance. Updated December 14, 2018.

  4. Rose JJ, Wang L, Xu Q, et al. Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: Pathogenesis, Management, and Future Directions of TherapyAm J Respir Crit Care Med. 2017;195(5):596-606. doi:10.1164/rccm.201606-1275CI

  5. Wheeler-Martin K, Soghoian S, Prosser JM, et al. Impact of Mandatory Carbon Monoxide Alarms: An Investigation of the Effects on Detection and Poisoning Rates in New York CityAm J Public Health. 2015;105(8):1623–1629. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2015.302577

  6. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). What about carbon monoxide detectors?. Updated August 1, 2019.

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