Best Carbon Monoxide Alarm
Protecting your family from potential dangers in your home is at the top of your priority list, including having the best carbon monoxide detector. Because carbon monoxide can kill within minutes, it's vital that you're alerted in the event of a leak so you can get yourself and your family outside into fresh air.
Just as you equip your home with the best smoke detectors in order to protect your family from fire, you need a carbon monoxide alarm that will tell you if CO is at deadly levels inside your house.
In this guide, I'll go over exactly what this gas is and how it can affect you, as well as give you a breakdown of my picks for the top 5 carbon monoxide detectors on the market today. While you're evaluating CO alarms, don't forget to take a look at the best home security systems as well.
What Is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide definition: "a colorless, odorless toxic flammable gas formed by incomplete combustion of carbon."
CO is known as the silent killer - is an odorless, tasteless, colorless gas produced when fuel is burned. When most people think of CO, they think of a leak within the system that fuels their stove, hot water heater, and furnace. This is a common source of a carbon monoxide problem, however, CO is produced by burning other fuels as well, such as wood, charcoal, or propane.
At low levels, CO can cause mild symptoms which worsen over time. At high levels, this gas can cause death within a matter of minutes.
Why Is Carbon Monoxide So Dangerous?
According to CDC data, more than 20,000 people visit the emergency room each year due to accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. This gas is deadly to humans and animals because it binds to hemoglobin in the red blood cells. This deprives the cells of oxygen so that they lack adequate levels to supply the brain and other vital organs. At low levels, CO can cause mild symptoms which worsen over time. At high levels, this gas can cause death within a matter of minutes.
Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Some people, particularly heart patients, can experience symptoms at a level of 70ppm. Once the CO level remains above 70ppm for several hours or longer, symptoms become noticeable. At 150 - 200ppm you could suffer unconsciousness or death. If you or your family experience any of the following symptoms for no apparent reason, you should consider the possibility of a carbon monoxide leak:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Chest pain
Keep in mind that if you're sleeping, CO can affect you so quickly that you may not notice any symptoms until it's too late. This is why it's so important to have the best carbon monoxide detectors installed throughout your home.
What Does Carbon Monoxide Smell Like?
Carbon monoxide on its own doesn't smell like anything - this is one of the main reasons it can be so insidious and is called the silent - or invisible - killer. Utility companies add an innocuous chemical called mercaptan to the natural gas which fuels your home appliances in order to make it easier for you to detect. This chemical makes gas smell like rotten eggs, which ensures that you'll take notice if there's a leak.
Utility companies add an innocuous chemical called mercaptan to the natural gas which fuels your home appliances in order to make it easier for you to detect.
Even though this odor is added to natural gas, it is still crucial that you include carbon monoxide detectors in your home alarm systems. When you and your family are sleeping, it is highly likely that you would sleep through a major leak even if it smells "off". A loud alarm is likely to wake someone, which could potentially save the lives of everyone in the house.
Best Carbon Monoxide Detector: What to Consider
While a gas leak is certainly a scary possibility, carbon monoxide poisoning can be prevented by installing working detectors as an integral part of your home monitoring system, making sure to place them in the recommended areas. The CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) advises installing a CO detector outside of each sleeping area. They should not be installed near heating vents or obstructions like draperies.
Types of CO Detectors
There are different kinds of detectors, although all perform the same basic functions:
- Plug-in: These detectors are powered by your home's electrical system. They may have a plug mounted directly on the device or a cord which allows more flexibility in mounting height. You want a model with a battery backup if you choose this type, in the case of a power outage.
- Battery-operated: This type of CO detector is self-explanatory. You'll need to check the batteries every few months to make sure they're working.
- Digital: Both electrical and battery-powered detectors may have a digital screen. This type is preferable because it shows you the exact level of carbon monoxide in your home.
- Smart Detectors: Home automation has brought with it the ability to monitor your home safety devices from a mobile app. These are a great choice if you already have one of the many available smart home systems.
- Dual-purpose: If you've shopped for smoke alarms you've probably noticed that many of these devices have a built-in carbon monoxide detector. This option can save you money because you won't have to buy two separate devices. You will be limited in placement with a dual detector, however, as smoke detectors are typically mounted on the ceiling.
Also, remember that just as with smoke alarms, CO detectors should be replaced every 10 years.
Top 5 Best Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Below you'll find my analysis of five of the top carbon monoxide detectors. These bestselling devices offer a solid combination of affordable price and desirable features.
Kidde KN-COPP-3 Nighthawk
- Plugs into power outlet for reliable monitoring
- Battery backup
- Detects CO levels as low as 11ppm (parts per million)
- Peak level memory (retains the highest level since the last reset)
- Three mounting options
- Beeps consistently if power is interrupted
- Slightly higher price than some other options
The Kidde KN-COPP-3 is a good mid-priced option for those who want a digital display along with electrical power.
First Alert CO410 Review
- Battery-operated for easy installation
- Backlit digital LED display for clear, accurate readings
- Easy-access battery door
- Test/silence button
- Audio-visual low battery alert
- Detection level not as low as it could be
First Alert is a reliable, highly-rated brand in home safety products. One of the things I like about this model is that for about $12 more you can choose this detector with a 10-year lithium battery, taking the stress out of constantly testing batteries.
BRK CO250B Review
- Battery-operated for easy installation
- Silence button
- Power indicator light
- Tamper resistant
- End of life signal
- No digital display
- Detection level not as low as some models
If you're looking for a basic, affordable CO detector, this BRK carbon monoxide detector fits the bill.
Kidde C3010D Review
- Digital display
- Updated reading every 15 seconds
- Sealed-in 10-year lithium battery
- Detects levels as low as 11ppm
- End of life signal
- Higher price point than other alarms
- No alarm sound for low CO levels (number is stored in peak level memory for later viewing)
This Kidde carbon monoxide detector is a bit more expensive, it's true, however, it garners glowing safety reviews and comes feature-packed for easy use. You'll never need to replace the battery - once the end of life signal comes on after 10 years, you simply replace your detector. Another great thing is that if you like the C3010D ratings but not the price tag, you can opt for the model without a digital display for about $14 less.
Onelink Environment Monitor
- Monitors carbon monoxide, temperature, and humidity
- Peek-a-hue feature - light ring that glows red if CO is detected
- Plugs in for easy installation
- Battery backup
- Detects levels as low as 9ppm
- No digital display for on-device readings
- Cost-prohibitive for using throughout whole home
The Onelink Environment Monitor is the ideal choice for those with an infant or elderly person in the household because of its low carbon monoxide detection level. Babies and senior citizens are particularly vulnerable to the effects of carbon monoxide, so receiving alerts before the level is dangerously high is a great feature to have.
Best Carbon Monoxide Detector Recap
Carbon monoxide detection technology has advanced to a point where most devices are able to detect fairly low levels of the deadly gas. Don't stress if your budget won't allow the fanciest, most expensive model - the important thing is to have at least a basic model installed around your family's sleeping areas.
It's also a good idea to make sure the CO detectors in your elderly loved ones' homes are working. While you're at it, check out the best medical alert systems for maximum safety and peace of mind for the entire family. With the wide variety of available types and price ranges, there's no reason not to take this simple step toward keeping your household safe from harm.