CO Detectors: Properly Placing Your Carbon Monoxide Detectors


CO Detectors

CO Detectors (also known as ‘Carbon Monoxide Detectors’) are electronic sensors that are designed to set off an alarm if they detect the presence of deadly carbon monoxide gas.

CO Detectors are an especially important safety feature for a home that has any type of fuel-burning appliances.

Accidental carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning kill more people than any other chemical substance (200 people killed and 8,000 people injured per year) according to the Consumer Products Safety Commission. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that is created by combustion such as in a gas furnace or oil-fired water heater, gas oven, or engine.

During winter when doors and windows are closed, and heaters and furnaces are operating, the potential for carbon monoxide poisoning dramatically increases.

Routine Care Task

Replace batteries and clean unit

This task is important for safety reasons. Exposure to a low concentration over several hours can be as dangerous as exposure to high carbon monoxide levels for a few minutes. Newer carbon monoxide detectors can detect both situations.

NOTE: Although carbon monoxide detectors can be used to help alert you to the presence of carbon monoxide, they should not be used as a substitute for proper use and maintenance of your fuel-burning appliances

Timing: August (yearly)

Replace sensor component

This task is important for safety reasons. Replacing the sensor helps to ensure proper sensing capability of your carbon monoxide detector.

Timing: July (every 2 years)

How To

Even if the carbon monoxide detector is plugged into an electrical supply, it still likely has a back-up battery that should be replaced.

The detector can be cleaned using a vacuum cleaner to remove cobwebs, and to the extent possible, to also remove dust from the inside of the unit.

Replace the sensor component of your carbon monoxide detector according to your manufacturer’s recommendations.

If you don’t have the instructions from the manufacturer that came with the unit, then you can try looking on the Internet for the model, and then download the instructions.

You do not typically need to replace the entire unit, just the sensor. Just replacing the sensor, rather than the entire unit can save you money.


The benefits of this task are high, in that it helps to ensure the safe operation of your carbon monoxide detectors for protecting you and your home.


The cost of this task is moderate, depending on how many carbon monoxide detectors that you have in your home.


Properly Placing Your Carbon Monoxide Detectors

If you don’t have carbon monoxide detectors in your home, you should absolutely install them. And if you do already have them, you’ll want to be sure they are in the proper locations in your home.

If you have any fuel burning heater or appliance, fireplace, or attached garage, you must have a carbon monoxide (“CO”) detector/alarm in your home. The installation locations will vary by the manufacturer for their specific type and style of detector, and you should read and follow your manufacturer’s instructions for your specific unit. But here are some general guidelines for where to place your CO monitors, so that they are the most effective in keeping your family safe . . . and where you should NOT place your CO detectors.


The International Association of Fire Chiefs recommend a carbon monoxide detector be installed on every floor of your home, including the basement. A detector should be located within 10 feet outside of each bedroom door, and there should be one near or over any attached garage. It is important that your CO detectors be close enough to the bedrooms so that the sound from the alarm is loud enough to wake up the person in the room.

Because carbon monoxide is slightly lighter than air (and because air with CO is typically warmer, and therefore rises) your detectors should be placed on a wall about 5 feet above the floor. Some CO detectors can be plugged directly into wall electric outlets, so you may be tempted to plug them into wall outlets which are only a foot or two off of the floor. But for the best effectiveness, they should instead be located about 5 feet off of the floor.

If your manufacturer recommends it for your particular model, your CO detector may be placed on a ceiling.


The following are places where it is NOT recommended to place your CO detectors:

  • A CO detector should not be placed within 15 feet of heating or cooking appliances.
  • CO detectors should not be placed in or near humid areas, such as bathrooms.
  • Do not install CO detectors within 15-20 feet of any furnace or fuel-burning appliances, as these appliances may emit a small amount of carbon monoxide upon start-up, and give false alarms.
  • Do not place your CO detectors in areas where they will be damaged by children or pets.
  • Do not install CO detectors in direct sunlight or areas subjected to temperature extremes, such as crawlspaces, unfinished attics, and porches.
  • They should not be installed behind curtains or other obstructions.
  • And your CO detectors may not function properly if installed near ceiling fans, heat vents, air conditioners, fresh air returns, or open windows.


The life expectancy for your CO detectors will be specific to each manufacturer’s recommendations. Most detectors should be replaced every 5-6 years. And if you wait longer than 5-6 years, then you can be living with a false sense of security.

Also, some CO detectors can be wired into your existing home security or fire panel which is monitored by a central station. With your CO detectors wired into a central monitoring station, the central station can be alerted to the high concentrations of CO gas and can send the proper authorities to investigate possible carbon monoxide poisoning. This can be extremely valuable in case your family has become overcome from the effects of CO, or are sleeping soundly, or if no one is at home.


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