The importance of carbon monoxide detectors simply can’t be underestimated. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, invisible gas that can cause anything from lightheadedness to migraines and dizziness, and can even be fatal if not caught in time. Every house and apartment should be equipped with some kind of device to detect this deadly gas but unfortunately, not all homes come with them. A common problem is that many people see their smoke detector and automatically assume that it’s a multi-use detection system, but there’s really no way of knowing this unless you check with the manufacturer. While all homes should come equipped with smoke detectors, something that detects the presence of carbon monoxide is often the sole responsibility of the homeowner. They’re easy enough to find and purchase but the question you’re left with is this: How do you know which brand is best for your home and where can you find it?
That’s why we’re here and that’s exactly the type of question we’re going to answer in this article. There are many reputable brands out there that claim their detection systems are the best but when it comes down to it, you have to explore your options and compare each one. It’s not the type of decision you would just make, especially when it’s your family’s health on the line, and that’s something we genuinely understand. With something like this, specific research must be done and brands must be evaluated, tested, and either ruled out or chosen wisely. We’ll get into the science behind detecting carbon monoxide and some important safety tips and tricks later on but for now, we want to first present you with the products we think are worthy of keeping your home safe. All of these vary in price, where they need to be placed, and how they alert you, which is why we’ve included detailed summaries to go along with each one as well.
Table of Contents
- 10 Best Carbon Monoxide Detectors Reviewed
- 1. Nighthawk AC Plug-in Operated
- 2. Kidde 21008873-2 KN-COPP-B-LPM
- 3. First Alert BRK SC7010B
- 4. Kidde KN-COSM-BA Battery-Operated
- 5. First Alert CO605 Plug-In
- 6. First Alert CO615 Frust Free Dual
- 7. First Alert SCO5CN Combination Smoke
- 8. Nest Protect Smoke S2001LW
- 9. Leeo Smart CO Remote Alarm
- 10. Pyle PCMM05 Hand Held
- Criteria Used in Evaluation of the Best Carbon Monoxide Detectors
10 Best Carbon Monoxide Detectors Reviewed
Easy to read display Can run on battery power or through an adaptor Battery functions as a backup source of power It has a unique alarm system Shows real-time readings Some people have reported receiving out of date units
1. Nighthawk AC Plug-in Operated
The 9-volt battery system operates as a backup in case the AC adapter stops working. This is an excellent quality to have in the event of a storm or any other circumstance where you'd lose power for a significant amount of time.
What We Like About It
The digital display is easy to read and will pick up on elevated CO levels rather quickly. It's because of this that we love how versatile it is in placement, as it can be plugged in right-side-up, sideways, or even run on battery power when placed away from an outlet.
Easy to read display
Can run on battery power or through an adaptor
Battery functions as a backup source of power
It has a unique alarm system
Shows real-time readings
Some people have reported receiving out of date units
Easy to read display even in low lighting You can check peak levels since the last rest The unit is small Battery-operated so it's versatile Well-known brand Users are cautioned against using reusable batteries due to changes in functionality
2. Kidde 21008873-2 KN-COPP-B-LPM
The display on this Kidde alarm is very easy to read, even in low-light environments. That makes it perfect for garages or spare room that no one uses very often since you won't need to turn every single light on in order to check the read-out.
What We Like About It
The simplicity of this unit is what makes it the gold standard in our book. You don't need to be any type of engineer to set this up, test it, or check peak levels since everything is clearly labeled and simple to use.
Easy to read display even in low lighting
You can check peak levels since the last rest
The unit is small
Battery-operated so it's versatile
Users are cautioned against using reusable batteries due to changes in functionality
Compatible with other BRK and First Alert alarms Features a loud alarm system that's designed for all types of hearing abilities Has a battery backup system Detects smoke and heat as well as CO Uses advantaged technology to stay up to date It can send off a false alarm occasionally
3. First Alert BRK SC7010B
This unit can be connected to other various units throughout the house to function as a full-house system. It's compatible with BRK and First Alert systems in order to provide the most accurate and fast warning possible in the event of an emergency.
What We Like About It
The battery acts as a backup system in the event that the electricity in your house does happen to fail. This is a life-saving measure that can mean the difference between getting out in time or sending a fire or leak far past when the alarm should have gone off.
Compatible with other BRK and First Alert alarms
Features a loud alarm system that's designed for all types of hearing abilities
Has a battery backup system
Detects smoke and heat as well as CO
Uses advantaged technology to stay up to date
It can send off a false alarm occasionally
Voice-activated for any and all alerts Tells you when the battery power is low Will function on backup battery power Combination smoke and CO detection Corrects false alarms on its own The smoke detection can be faulty The battery power does not last very long
4. Kidde KN-COSM-BA Battery-Operated
Changing the batteries in any alarm is tough to remember to do annually and if your system runs on backup power for a significant amount of time, you might have a problem. This smart alarm also announces when there's low battery power rather than just sending out a "chirp" which can be misheard or easily ignored.
What We Like About It
The distinguishing warnings when it comes to smoke versus CO detection is something that's quite remarkable in an alarm. While many just sound off and don't provide any way to tell the difference, this alarm will tell you exactly what's wrong.
Voice-activated for any and all alerts
Tells you when the battery power is low
Will function on backup battery power
Combination smoke and CO detection
Corrects false alarms on its own
The smoke detection can be faulty
The battery power does not last very long
Simple to use Can be moved around easily Runs on electricity alone Testing is easy and quick Very affordable There's no digital display
5. First Alert CO605 Plug-In
Sometimes, using an AC adaptor can be more reliable when it comes to electricity coming from a wall unit rather than just depending on battery power alone. You'll know that your system is always working with a simple and quick test-run.
What We Like About It
These units are easy to move around and place in various areas of your home and we love how uncomplicated they are. If seeking out a unit that you don't know how to use is your fear, these are the perfect option to add that extra level of safety to each floor of your house.
Simple to use
Can be moved around easily
Runs on electricity alone
Testing is easy and quick
There's no digital display
Features an end-of-life chirp The digital display is easy to read Shows the real-time level of CO gas Runs on electricity or battery power 7-year warranty Can throw off false readings
6. First Alert CO615 Frust Free Dual
First Alert includes a seven-year warranty with all of its alarm which tells you that not only do they care, but they also strive for the best when it comes to their systems. Most units only last that long as it is, so during that time you'll be in good hands if any issues should arise with your CO detector.
What We Like About It
The display on this alarm is clean, clear, and concise. It shows you all of the real-time information that you'll need in order to know the status of gas in your home and is easy enough for the most inexperienced of CO alarm owners to use.
Features an end-of-life chirp
The digital display is easy to read
Shows the real-time level of CO gas
Runs on electricity or battery power
Can throw off false readings
Very easy to install Combination system Photoelectric sensors are advanced Loud alarm setting Comes in a pack of multiples The warning voice itself is not programmable
7. First Alert SCO5CN Combination Smoke
This unit features an easy to install process that requires no electrician to do so. That takes the stress off of you and allows you to install as many as needed in no time at all without the help of a professional.
What We Like About It
The user-friendly aspect of these alarms is something that we really appreciated especially when it comes to keeping your family safe. You'll be able to install as many as you need, quickly and easily, with the mindset that your home is protected.
Very easy to install
Photoelectric sensors are advanced
Loud alarm setting
Comes in a pack of multiples
The warning voice itself is not programmable
Advanced detection system Mobile alerts Works via WiFi Sleek-looking unit Split sensor for smoke as well as CO gas It is prone to sending out false alarms
8. Nest Protect Smoke S2001LW
A decade is a pretty long time when it comes to appliances and electronics, but believe it -- that's the average life of the Nest alarm system. With all of its advanced features, it's no surprise to hear that a long life is one of them.
What We Like About It
The advanced warning system is something to be respected, especially if you have kids in the house. It's so easy to leave a burner on or leave a pan unattended and this smart alarm will tip you off before you even get a chance to walk very far.
Advanced detection system
Works via WiFi
Split sensor for smoke as well as CO gas
It is prone to sending out false alarms
Versatile light systems that can alert you based on color Mobile alerts Completely customizable Works via WiFi with a free phone app Can function as a nightlight as well It must be plugged into an outlet
9. Leeo Smart CO Remote Alarm
The high quality of these features is something that you simply don't find with other alarm systems. In addition to changing the color of your unit, you can also set various colors to indicate various warnings, making it a visual alert system as well as an auditory one.
What We Like About It
The versatility and capability behind this system are unparalleled. Leeo is what most systems will probably look like in the future and it's something we can get behind as a progressive society.
Versatile light systems that can alert you based on color
Works via WiFi with a free phone app
Can function as a nightlight as well
It must be plugged into an outlet
Easily portable Simple to use with clearly-labeled buttons Brightly-lit LCD screen Alerts you to elevating levels Powers off automatically to conserve battery power Can't be left on to monitor a room 24/7
10. Pyle PCMM05 Hand Held
There's nothing complicated about this device. The readout on the screen is easy to understand and won't confuse you in the slightest, while the four buttons found on the front are labeled clearly.
What We Like About It
This device is portable enough to bring nearly anywhere. It's great in the event that you have a suspicion that your current alarms aren't working or if you want to check places such as your car, which doesn't come with a CO detector.
Simple to use with clearly-labeled buttons
Brightly-lit LCD screen
Alerts you to elevating levels
Powers off automatically to conserve battery power
Can't be left on to monitor a room 24/7
Criteria Used in Evaluation of the Best Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Carbon monoxide gas can come from a variety of sources which is what makes it so dangerous. Since you can’t smell it or see it, many people don’t even release when they have a leak somewhere until their alarm goes off or they begin experiencing symptoms of it. Since this is such a serious matter and should be taken as such, we went through a very thorough process when it came to choosing the best detection systems for your home. You might recognize some of the brands we’ve listed such as Kidde and Safety First, but we have included some other brands that include benefits outside of just an alarm as well. In order to find out what worked the best, we first had to evaluate these brands based on their standings in 2019. After doing that, we were able to scope out what the best and most current models were, leaving us with the most obvious choices. While any carbon monoxide detector will eventually alert you to growing CO levels, what sets these apart is their advancement in that department. Not only will they alert you to these hazardous levels, but they’ll do so much quicker and efficiently than some of the older models or brands out there. Upgrading is important and with something like this, you always want to go with the best.
How Do Detectors Pick Up on CO?
There are three different ways that CO detectors work. The first is through a biomimetic sensor, which is a gel that has the ability to pick up on the dangerous gas. Once the gel turns color, it will then trigger the alarm, warning you of its presence. Second, a metal oxide semiconductor uses a silica chip as a level-reading and when the level of electrical resistance is lowered due to the presence of CO, the alarm is triggered. Lastly is an electrochemical sensor. It uses electrodes and a chemical solution in order to detect CO and when the electrical currents are altered, the alarm is triggered. All three of these are modern and reliable options and the great thing is that the alarm will continue going off until the levels of CO have dissipated. This means that you’ll know exactly how high levels are and when they’re safe enough to re-enter the room again.
What Are the Physical Effects of Carbon Monoxide?
Effects of CO exposure can vary but there are several common signs that many people exhibit when exposed to such a gas. Since it can linger while being completely undetectable, it’s important to pay attention to these signs if they become frequent when your family is home with the windows closed, doors closed, heating systems on, stove on, fireplace going, etc. The minor systems of low exposure to CO include headaches, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, and shortness of breath. All of these will come on fairly suddenly and likely be unable to be explained and may get better when leaving the area. Symptoms that should be taken very seriously due to high exposure to CO include loss of muscular coordination, loss of consciousness, vomiting, and mental confusion. It’s these signs that a person will normally exhibit when their body is reaching the point of suffocation due to CO inhalation and they should be immediately removed from the area and taken to the nearest hospital.
Why Is It So Dangerous?
It’s odorless and invisible, but what exactly happens when CO enters the bloodstream? CO is volatile when it comes into contact with the human body because it essentially attacks the red blood cells. Rather than binding to hemoglobin, red blood cells will bond to the CO molecules, forming carboxyhemoglobin, which can severely inhibit the oxygen levels in your body. When this happens, these bonded molecules will then force the body through oxygen deprivation, which is responsible for all the symptoms that were previously mentioned. It’s not something that we think about every day but it’s certainly something to be aware of.
What Can Cause a CO Leak?
You might be wondering what parts of your house are the most vulnerable to leaking CO and this is also a good thing to take note of. The most common cause of CO build-up is the use of an at-home backup generator without proper ventilation. These generators operate under the use of gas as fuel which can result in CO, a byproduct of gas that has not been fully burned up or released. Anyone who uses a fireplace, kerosene, coals, space heaters, or a pellet stove, or propane or natural gas for heating should have a CO detector somewhere in your home. Fossil fuels and biofuels can also throw off CO, so it’s important to be very aware of your heating systems and washer and dryer hookups. Anywhere there can be carbon buildup, such as within the coils of a stove, should also be checked regularly in order to avoid the buildup of toxic gases.
Where to Put it and What to Do
When purchasing a CO detector, one should be placed near the opening of each sleeping room in the house. This will alert you quickly to the growing presence of CO and wake you from your sleep in the event that this buildup happens at night. Since CO detectors are designed to only detect that specific gas, you won’t have to worry about temperature or other gases or smoke interfering with the device. Ensure that it’s installed or placed properly and avoid putting it somewhere that it can be easily covered up or lost. Additionally, you should have a CO detector on each floor of your home in the event that there’s a leak on one floor that isn’t reaching another. All detectors should come with the UL label on them which ensures that they’ve been properly certified and tested to meet safety standards.
In the event that your alarm does go off, immediately evacuate your family from the premises. Don’t go back inside for anything and immediately call 911. Until the fire department arrives and declares your home safe for re-entry, do not re-enter. The fire department is also trained to look for CO leaks and they’ll help to determine what it is that set off your alarm.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Should I purchase more than one of these detectors?
A: In short, yes. It’s a good practice to place one just outside of each bedroom in the house as well as on each floor and though this might seem tedious, it’s the best way to keep your family, and your home, safe.
Q: What will the alarm sound like and will it be loud?
A: Yes, it will be loud enough for you to hear it. Detectors vary from brand to brand but sound very similar to smoke alarms. Some of the more modern detectors might even speak to you and alert you of the dangers by repeating a certain phrase, similar to modern smoke detectors. Either way, the alarm will be loud, jarring, and enough to get your attention.
Q: How often should the batteries be replaced on these?
A: If it does not need to be plugged into an outlet, the batteries should be checked roughly every six months. A common rule of thumb is that whenever you replace your smoke alarm batteries — usually daylight savings time — you should also replace those in your CO detector.
Q: Should I replace my model every year?
A: That’s up to you. Many times, updated models include extra features such as mobile alerts, digital displays, and newer alarms, but it’s a personal preference. As long as you have some sort of detection system by a reputable brand, you’re one step closer to ensuring the full safety of your home.
Q: Can these be used in places such as the garage as well?
A: Yes. You could put a CO detector in every room of your house if you really wanted to! They’re designed specifically to pick up on CO gas and nothing else, so there shouldn’t be any other gas or smoke that will trigger the alarm.
Q: I am a heavy sleeper. Would it be beneficial to put one of these detectors in the bedroom?
A: In that case, we’d recommend putting one detector in your bedroom and still placing one just outside in the hallway somewhere. This way, one alarm will go off in the event that the presence of CO is picked up on the hallway, which could very well wake you up, but by having one in your room, you’ll also have a backup — Just in case.