Carbon Monoxide Detector Buying Guide
Carbon Monoxide Detector Buying Guide

Hundreds of people die from exposure to Carbon Monoxide (CO) every year in the U.S. The risk is higher during the winter and fall months, when more people are using gas-powered heating appliances in their homes. Carbon Monoxide is odorless and colorless, so it is hard for humans to detect.

So, if you have gas-powered appliances in the home, a Carbon Monoxide detector can save your life.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Problems and Symptoms

Low-level carbon monoxide exposure causes nausea, dizziness, vomiting, headaches and fatigue.

High-level carbon monoxide exposure can cause convulsions, comas, and even death.

There are three types of detectors that are designed to detect low levels of Carbon Monoxide in the air. These detectors typically set off alarms similar to fire detectors when exposed to Carbon Monoxide.

Biomimetic Carbon Monoxide Detectors

This type of alarm is sensitive to temperature and humidity. Gel-coated discs inside the alarm turn dark when exposed to CO, triggering an alarm. This type of alarm lasts about six years, and is usually battery operated

Oxide Semi-conductor Carbon Monoxide Alarm Options

This type of alarm is sensitive to moisture. CO reacts with the heated tin dioxide inside the detector, and the alarm is sounded. This type of alarm lasts five to seven years, and usually plugs into the wall.

Electrochemical Carbon Monoxide Detector Options

This is the most expensive type of CO detector. But it is also the most accurate. Electrochemical sensors are stable against humidity and changing temperatures, and are less likely to be set off by other household gases (eg. ammonia). When exposed to CO, platinum electrodes placed inside an electrolyte solution generate energy and trips the alarm. This alarm is usually battery operated.


Always, when you are choosing your CO detector, make sure it is well rated and certified by the Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL), a global product compliance-testing company. Replace the batteries in your detectors regularly.