April 12, 2018

Photo courtesy of: Greater Toronto Builders

Though not expensive, a carbon monoxide (known also as "CO") alarm or monitor is one of the most important home purchases you can buy; it can save your life and your loved ones' lives. BPI has addressed various carbon monoxide topics in previous blogs from gas leak detection and what to do, CO poisoning, which happened to BPI friend and colleague, Jay Murdoch, and why vent hoods matter, to name a few.

Carbon monoxide monitors are available with various features such as digital displays, battery backup, voice alarms for heavy sleepers (like children), and strobe lights for people with hearing impairments. A quality CO monitor also has the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) seal.

Consumer Reports advises ensuring you purchase new CO detectors routinely; they lose their sensitivity and their effectiveness over time.

First Alert, TruTech Tools, Home Depot, and Lowe's have plug-in carbon monoxide alarms ranging in price from $25 to $150 for more sophisticated models with better detection ability and longer lasting batteries. They also have buying guides and tips on their websites. Consumer Reports has ratings and recommended CO monitors.

Where should you install your carbon monoxide alarm?

Consumer Reports recommends installing CO monitors just outside of sleeping rooms, on each floor of the home, in the basement, and near (not inside) an attached garage.

The National Fire Protection Association recommends installing a carbon monoxide alarm near your sleeping rooms and on each floor of the house, including in the basement. If you install only one carbon monoxide alarm in your home, place it near your bedroom.

Where not to install carbon monoxide monitors

Though it may seem counterintuitive, you don't want to install carbon monoxide monitors in garages, kitchens, furnace rooms, or spaces with a lot of dust, dirt, or grease. You also do not want to place them in direct sunlight or in rooms where the temperature spikes or plummets (like a cold, uninsulated space). Monitors should be placed in an area with no obstructions and nothing blocking air movement (like behind a piece of furniture or curtain). Lastly, you don't want to install your monitor next to AC units, fans, open windows, or vents where this air flow may disrupt any potential carbon monoxide from getting to the detector. Do not install in turbulent air – near ceiling fans, heat vents, air conditioners, fresh air returns, or open windows. Blowing air may prevent carbon monoxide from reaching the CO sensors.

Show someone you really love them: Buy him/her a CO monitor

In North America, for example, only 40% of homes have CO alarms or detectors. The CO monitor penetration rate is below 15% outside North America – even in highly developed countries.

Currently, handheld CO monitors are more expensive than plug-in alarms. They range in price from $130-$215. BPI CEO Larry Zarker bought a top-of-the-line personal CO monitor, the Sensit P100, from TruTech Tools. He carries it everywhere with him. Our previous blogger, Jay Murdoch, bought 12 (!) handheld monitors for friends and family for Christmas gifts.

But, you can also just buy your loved ones plug-in alarms on the sites further above. They can use them at home or while they're traveling. 

Download the CO monitor tip sheet for more tips to prevent carbon monoxide exposure.

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Hannah C. Wood

Hannah C. Wood joined the Building Performance Institute, Inc. as the Marketing and Communications Director in July 2016. Hannah has experienced winter in 4 northern countries. She likes all aspects of homemaking from yard work (seriously!) to insulation. She's committed to keeping people comfortable, healthy, and energy efficient at home.