Carbon Monoxide Detector Buying Guide

It's vital to have a carbon monoxide detector to keep you and your family safe. Carbon monoxide forms when bio-fuels don't completely combus, many of which are used at home. It's an odourless, colourless, and toxic gas, and carbon monoxide poisoning can happen in just minutes. Get a carbon monoxide detector for early warning and protection.

Finding a New Carbon Monoxide Detector

We have many kinds of carbon monoxide detectors. Keep your home and family as safe as possible with an alarm that warns you at the earliest stage.

Different Types of Carbon Monoxide Detectors

How to Choose a Carbon Monoxide Detector

Start by looking for a device that's been evaluated by the Underwriters Laboratories of Canada (ULC), an independent product safety testing, certification, and inspection organization. After that, it comes down to choosing between plug-in, battery-operated, or hardwired, any additional features, and if you want a combination carbon monoxide-smoke detector alarm.

Plug-In Carbon Monoxide Detectors

This type of CO detector is portable and plugs into any standard outlet. It comes with a battery back-up just in case of a power failure, giving you protection at all times. Make sure to regularly test the unit when it's unplugged to ensure the battery still works. Plug-in carbon monoxide detectors are usually the most affordable type.


Hardwired Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Some CO detectors are hardwired into the home's electrical system and run on line voltage, with a back-up battery just in case the electricity goes out. The battery usually lasts about six months and starts to chirp regularly when it begins to die, signalling that it needs to be changed soon.


Battery-Operated Carbon Monoxide Detectors

There are two types of battery-operated carbon monoxide detectors: lithium and volt. With a lithium carbon monoxide detector, batteries are sealed inside the unit and last, on average, for 10 years. When the device begins chirping to indicate an expired battery, the entire unit needs to be replaced. With volt-powered carbon monoxide detectors, you can find batteries for them just about anywhere. They are relatively inexpensive, easy to replace, and last about six months. An easy way to remember when to change the battery is when you change your clocks for daylight savings time in the spring and fall.


Carbon Monoxide Alarm Placement Within Rooms

Carbon Monoxide Alarm Placement Within Homes

Where to Install a Carbon Monoxide Detector

Unlike smoke, which rises because it's hot, carbon monoxide mixes with the air around it and detectors can be installed at any height or location. The only exception to this is if it's a combination smoke/CO detector, in which case it would have to be installed on or near ceilings, according to the manufacturer's specifications.

Good locations to place the unit include:

  • Close to where people sleep so they can be quickly and easily notified in case of emergency. At the very minimum, one on each floor should be installed, including the basement (15-20 feet away from the furnace or fuel burning heat source). 
  • Near fuel-burning appliances, so it can detect incomplete combustion at the earliest stages.
  • About five metres away from cooking or heating appliances so false alarms are minimized. If you're using an appliance that can emit carbon monoxide, like a gas stove, the five-metre rule doesn't apply.
  • In an area free of covering or obstruction so the unit can accurately detect carbon monoxide.

How to Maintain Your Carbon Monoxide Alarm

  • Test the device at least once a month to make sure it's in good working order. Carbon monoxide alarms differ from smoke alarms in the type of alarm they sound. A CO detector signal will make four very quick beeps followed by a five-second pause, and then the pattern repeats.
  • Keep the unit uncovered and free from obstruction.
  • To avoid dust clogging up the unit, remove the detector from its power source and gently vacuum it with the soft brush attachment.
  • Most carbon monoxide alarms have a life span of five years. If your alarm is five years old or older, it is time to replace with a new model.

  • Additional Features of Carbon Monoxide Detectors

  • Combination with smoke detectors: Get two-in-one protection that alerts you to carbon monoxide and smoke. These alarms are equipped with both an electrochemical sensor for accurate detection of CO, and either a photoelectric or ionization sensor for detection of smoke and fire.
  • Smart home connection: Monitor or receive alerts with your smartphone even when you're not home. 
  • Battery power: Carbon monoxide detectors powered by AA, 9V or long life lithium batteries are easy to install or replace. However, they must be tested monthly, and batteries should be replaced every six months.
  • Electrical hardwiring: Hardwired detectors require some installation; but can offer interconnection features to alarm systems or other devices. All hardwired alarms also include battery backup for protection during power outages.
  • Electrical outlet plug-in: Plug in alarms are ideal for areas where wall or ceiling installation would be difficult as they plug directly into any standard outlet, and many are equipped with a battery backup for protection during a power outage.
  • Voice alarm: Voice alarms provide additional features such as telling you information where the alarm has been activated in your home.

  • Safety Tips & Pointers

  • Maintain appliances that can emit CO, such as furnaces and fireplaces, on a yearly basis.
  • Don't heat your home with a gas stove.
  • use barbeques and grills in well-ventilated, open areas.
  • During and after a snowstorm, check that dryer, furnace, and stove vents aren't clogged with snow.
  • Only use gas generators outside.
  • Don't run your car for a long time inside the garage.
  • Learn the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning: headaches, nausea, dizziness, confusion, drowsiness, and shortness of breath.
  • If your CO detector alarms and you or someone else is feeling the effects of CO poisoning, immediately evacuate your home and call 911 from outside.
  • If the unit alarms and nobody is feeling signs of CO poisoning, check to see if the battery needs replacing or is chirping to signal near-expiration before calling 911.
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