Protecting your family from potential dangers in your home is at the top of your priority list, including having a 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 a smoke detector 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.
The Best Carbon Monoxide Detector - In This Guide
Our Top Five 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. The Kidde uses sophisticated electronic components and sensors designed specifically to detect traces of carbon dioxide.
One of the best features of the Kidde is it's 9V battery backup so it'll continue to function even during power outages. The Kidde allows for several mounting options so you can install it anywhere in your house.
The downsides to the Kidde is that it's one of the more expensive options in this guide--however, you do get what you pay for. In addition, customers report that after it's 7-year lifespan, the Kidde starts to beep consistently and cannot be shut off except by removal of the battery, effectively making the unit non-operational.
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.
The First Alert boasts it's one of the most accurate carbon monoxide detectors available, using an electrochemical sensor to produce its results.
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. And even if you don't shell out the extra $12, it's easy to replace the 2 AA batteries included.
Unlike the other devices on this list, the First Alert has an audible and visual low battery signal. It also comes with an optional wall mount, too.
Although it doesn't help the system detect carbon monoxide, the First Alert is also a good looking device. If you need a carbon monoxide system that is easy use and does the hard work for you, this is the one for you.
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. The BRK is another sensor that uses an electrochemical system for extremely accurate and precise readings of carbon monoxide. It's 10-year lifespan and easy-to-replace batteries make this a great choice.
One of the best things about the BRK is its ability to amount anywhere. A big problem for some carbon monoxide detectors is that it's only limited to being mounted on the ceiling. For small apartments or rooms where a detector is needed, the BRK can go anywhere you want.
You definitely get what you pay for, and unfortunately, that shows with this model. The BRK has no digital display, meaning you can't get at-the-moment readings when you want it. You won't know carbon monoxide is in your house until the sensor is triggered. Another strike against the BRK is that its detection range is not as low compared to the other models on this list. The detection range is 40°F (4°C) to 100°F (38°C), which fits most homes, but could be a problem if the temperature in your home is prone to wild fluctuations.
Despite these downsides, several customers reported that the BRK offers solid service at an extremely affordable price. The product ships fast and operates without issue.
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)
The C3010D Kidde is quite similar to the KN-COPP-3 model on this list. Both are great products, but the C3010D offers a few more technical features and convenience bonuses.
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. If you're a worrier, one of the biggest problems with most carbon monoxide detectors is that you don't know if they're actually working. The Kidde gives you some peace of mind with its LED lights. Green means it's functioning perfectly. Red means it detects carbon monoxide and will trigger an alarm. Amber means there is an error.
The Kidde is focused around being 'Worry Free.' Besides the LED lights, the model also displays carbon monoxide readings at a glance so your family can check it whenever they like. Besides an easy and quick install, a 10-year guarantee, and no maintenance required, the more expensive Kidde model offers additional features to keep your family protected.
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 (Known as the GLOCO) 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.
A unique feature of the GLOCO compared to the other detectors in this guide is that the companion app allows you to monitor carbon monoxide emissions in your house or apartment from anywhere using an iOS device. Through the app, you'll receive instant notifications if the system detects an issue or if carbon monoxide levels are high, or if the temperature and humidity of the room are higher than the preferences you set using the app. The LED ring around the detector will change color when it notices a shift in room temperature or humidity as well.
Beyond these neat add-ons, the GLOCO is also a stellar carbon monoxide detector, being able to sense carbon monoxide emissions at levels lower than the other systems on this list. However, the GLOCO is also quite costly to match all the things it can do. In addition, the biggest problem surrounding the GLOCO is that it needs a WiFi connection for any of its function beyond detecting for carbon monoxide, which could be a hassle.
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 detector 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.
Factors to Consider When Looking for a Carbon Monoxide Detector
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.
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. 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.
Smoke Detectors are equally as important to install in your house. You can check out our buyer's guide to smoke detectors for more information.