Dawson says a CO alarm is critical since it’s the only way to detect CO early enough. “Just like smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors can alert everyone in the household to even a small leak and can save lives if leaks occur when everyone in the house is asleep,” Dawson explains. “Even if the symptoms gradually disappear on their own, carbon monoxide poisoning is a serious medical event that requires treatment.”
There are several types of CO detectors. According to Dawson, “While they all have varying levels of sophistication, all models will alert you if dangerous levels of carbon monoxide accumulate.” Following are some of the options to choose from:
- Dual-function: “Some carbon monoxide detectors also have smoke detectors or other gas sensors built-in,” Dawson says.
- Digital: “These devices have a digital screen to show you levels of carbon monoxide in your home.”
- Smart: Dawson says smart carbon monoxide alarms are the most advanced option on the market. “They do their own diagnostics to make sure they’re working properly and sync with home automation apps so you can monitor your home from afar.”
- Hardwired: These CO detectors don’t use batteries. Instead, they’re wired into the home’s electrical grid. “Unless the power goes out, you won’t have to worry about devices losing battery and failing to work.”
- Battery-operated: This type is as basic as they come. Battery-operated carbon monoxide detectors may or may not have a digital screen. Residents will need to check the batteries every three months to ensure the detectors are working properly.
Dawson also provides the following tips for CO detectors:
- Install a battery-operated or battery back-up CO detector in your home and check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall.
- It’s a good idea to test your CO detector monthly. Start by pressing the “test” button to ensure the siren works. If your detector is older, you may have to purchase a carbon monoxide test kit to ensure that it’s fully functional. If the detector doesn’t go off when you test it, it’s probably time to buy a new one. Replace your CO detector every five years.
- Place your detector where it will wake you up if the alarm goes off, such as outside your bedroom. The correct installation and placement of CO detectors is crucial to ensuring that you and your family stay alerted to — and protected from — this hazard.
- Consider buying a detector with a digital readout. This detector can tell you the highest level of CO concentration in your home in addition to alarming.
Terri Williams is a freelance journalist with bylines at The Economist, USA Today, Yahoo, the Houston Chronicle, and U.S. News & World Report. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.