Carbon monoxide detectors can save your life and the lives of those you love, but only if you place them in the correct locations in your home.

Gas furnaces and other fuel-burning equipment in your house produce carbon monoxide (CO), the colorless, odorless, highly poisonous gas formed by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels. Your furnace normally vents this deadly gas outside your house through a flue pipe.

But CO poisoning can take effect at the low CO concentration level of 70 parts per million. Even a small leak in your flue pipe is dangerous, especially during the winter, when your furnace is set on high and your windows are tightly shut to keep heat in. This lack of ventilation can be disastrous.

A CO detector warns you immediately of a rise in CO concentrations around you, keeping you safe from any CO-related emergencies. However, to measure CO concentrations accurately, you must place the detectors in appropriate locations around your house.

Ideal Locations for Carbon Monoxide Detectors

To ensure that your CO detectors accurately measure CO levels in your house, follow these safety tips:

  • Since CO gas is lighter than air and is found with rising, warm air, place your CO detectors around five feet off the floor.
  • If you have pets, place your CO detector where your pets can’t reach it. Otherwise, your pets might break the sensor in the detector without your noticing.
  • There may be varying levels of CO on different floors of a multi-story house. To keep every area of your home protected, install a CO detector on every floor.
  • Install CO detectors outside bedrooms so that you and your family wake up immediately if the detector sounds the alarm during the night.
  • If your house has an attached garage, place a CO detector in the garage. All cars that use internal combustion engines produce CO, and the gas can spread quickly to other areas of your house if undetected.
  • Since CO detectors differ because of variations in manufacturing specifications, follow your CO detector manufacturer’s recommendations. Thoroughly read your CO detector’s manual and contact the manufacturer if you have any questions.
  • Adjust the alarms on your CO detectors to ensure that they’re loud enough for you to hear no matter where you are in the house.

Avoid Placing Carbon Monoxide Detectors in these Areas

Hearing a CO detector sound off is a startling experience. To avoid false alarms and to ensure that your CO detectors are accurately measuring CO levels in your home, steer clear of the following locations:

  • Anywhere that’s subjected to direct sunlight. High temperatures trigger detectors, leading to false alarms.
  • Close to fuel-burning appliances, such as gas furnaces and gas space heaters. Areas near these appliances will always have a higher level of CO than other areas.
  • Close to air-blowing appliances or sources, such as fans, open windows and vents. Placing a CO detector in these locations prevents it from recognizing unsafe CO concentrations due to the inaccuracies caused by blowing air.
  • In or near humid locations, such as bathrooms. Humid air is dense and leads to inaccurate CO detection.
  • In areas where bleach and other household chemicals are stored. The fumes from volatile cleaning products can trigger the CO detector’s alarm.
  • On the ceiling. While CO is slightly lighter than air, both gases have similar weights, so CO won’t rise to the height of your ceiling to trigger the alarm.

How to Maintain Your Carbon Monoxide Detector

Installing CO detectors isn’t all you need to do to keep you and your family safe. To ensure that your CO detector is running properly, follow these reminders:

  • Check your detectors each month. Your CO detectors have a button that you press to test if the detector is working properly. Pressing it will sound an alarm or flash a light, indicating that your detector is working as it should.
  • Clean the detector regularly. Dirt, dust and similar particles hinder the detector’s performance. Use a cloth—and a vacuum with a brush attachment, if needed—to keep the CO detector clean.
  • Replace the batteries regularly. All CO detectors automatically sound a high-decibel, repetitive alarm to alert you that they’re low on batteries. But don’t wait until the alarm sounds. The CPSC recommends changing your CO detector batteries at least every year.

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