Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless and colorless gas that is very deadly to both humans and animals. The best way to fight this dangerous gas is to put CO alarms and detectors throughout your home. Today’s CO alarms and detectors are very easy to install and use, and you can even get devices that act as both CO and smoke detectors, or just as either one of them. You can also get smart CO detectors that can be synced with your smartphone and alert you if there high levels of CO in your house. With the variety of choices, you can find models that fit your needs, and your budget as well – the prices range from $25 to $125. Take a look at our top choices for the best carbon monoxide detectors and our guide that will help you find the best model to will keep you safe.
Top Picks For the Best Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Let’s take a look at our top picks for the best carbon monoxide detectors in 2019. The first model is our editor’s choice, First Alert SCO501CN-3ST. Another model from First Alert, the CO615 is our best display detector. On our list are also two models from Kidde – the Kidde KN-COPP-3 Nighthawk is the best plug-in, while the Kidde KN-COPP-B-LPM is the best budget detector. Finally, our best smart alarm is the Nest Protect Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm. Let’s take a look at their features.
First Alert SCO501CN-3ST
- Smoke and CO detector
- 7 years of warranty
- Connects with different types of First Alert-manufactured alarms
- Voice Alarm (Verbally alerts you when CO levels are present)
The First Alert SCO501CN-3ST can be used as both carbon monoxide and smoke alarm that can be connected to different types of OneLink First alarms and create an extensive system of CO detection. With this system, when one alarm activates, the other ones will also make a sound. You can install up to eleven detectors in different places throughout your home.
The First Alert SCO501CN-3ST will tell you when there are concentrations of CO or when the battery is low. Since the alarm is wireless, it is easily installed. You just need to mount it with batteries, on a ceiling or wall. There is also a hush button that will allow you to silence any false alarms without any difficulty.
First Alert CO615 Dual-Power
- Carbon monoxide alarm
- Plug-in with battery-powered
- 7 years of warranty
The First Alert CO615 unit is a monoxide detector that is very easy to mount. With a power cord that is 6-foot long, you can mount it on higher parts of the wall or ceiling. It also has batteries on a front-load flap that will act as a backup in case of power outages.
With 85 decibels, the device will sound off loudly when it detects danger, making sure you wake up from deep sleep. The one-touch button will make the testing of the alarm easier, and allow instant turning off any false alarms. Additionally, its digital display offers a lot of information. It displays the levels of carbon monoxide and indicates battery life. The device will also display warnings if the CO status in your room reaches unsafe levels.
Kidde KN-COPP-3 Nighthawk AC
- Carbon monoxide alarm
- Digital display
- Plug-in with battery backup
- 10 years of warranty
The Kidde KN-COPP-3 Nighthawk has a digital screen display and a plug-in that allows easy installation. With the wall plug-in, you can mount the alarm device directly on the wall or ceiling. In case of a power outage, you do not need to worry because it has a backup in the form of battery power.
The device’s display will show you the current levels of CO in your home. With its 11 ppm sensitivity, it can easily detect any CO concentrations that can gradually fill your home. The LED lights attached in the device will let you know if the sensors are working correctly. Like the First Alert SCO501CN-3ST, its button will make testing and silencing any false alarms easy. You can also tap the button “Peak level” to check what was the highest recorded CO level since you last unplugged or reset the unit.
- CO alarm
- Digital screen display
- 10 years of warranty
The Kidde KN-COPP-B-LPM comes with a digital screen display that will help you check the levels of carbon monoxide in your home at any time of the day. The highly sensitive features of this alarm can detect levels of 11 to 999 parts per million (ppm). It is a great pick not only for its delicate detecting features but also for its efficient updates that happen every 15 seconds. Its LED lights will also show when it is safe or unsafe in the room – it will show green for safe and red for dangerous.
The device is very easy to operate and install. Once placed, you can replace the batteries without having to open the machine and dismantle its parts. It is one of the most durable models you can find, and it comes with a warranty that lasts for ten years. The price for it starts at $50, but you can get discounts if you choose the two-pack or other available options.
- Hardwired or battery-only (wireless)
- Dual-sensor alarm
- Combination of CO and smoke alarm
- 10-year warranty
The Nest Protect is a device that combines a smoke and CO detector. It is a smart-home enabled detector that can connect with other devices in your home over a wireless network to notify you when it senses CO or smoke. When you are out of the house, on a trip or just away for a period, you can still monitor the device with your smartphone. Once it detects levels of carbon monoxide, it will send a notification. Additionally, it can perform diagnostics independently, and you can check if it is working properly.
You can purchase the Nest Protect through Amazon and choose between two options – battery-operated devices or wired versions. However, with the price of $100, this detector is a bit expensive, but if you need strict monitoring of CO levels throughout your home, it is undoubtedly worth the price. Not to mention that the device will endure for ten years.
Carbon Monoxide Detector Buying Guide
Carbon monoxide is odorless and deadly, which means we can’t smell or see it. Because of that, it is important to have an alarm or detector to rely on and alert you if there is any amount of CO in your home.
What is a Carbon Monoxide Detector?
CO detectors search for particles of carbon monoxide in the air and give you information on how much concentration of CO is present with the goal of preventing carbon monoxide poisoning. Since CO is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless compound that is created by the incomplete combustion of carbon-containing materials, people cannot detect it without the use of specialized technology. Because of this, it’s usually called the silent killer. These devices have different sensors – a semiconductor, biomimetic, electrochemical, or optical-chemical sensor.
The optical-chemical model has a pad with a colored chemical that changes color as a reaction to the gas. However, they will only give a qualitative warning. With the use of cyclodextrins, chromophore, and metal salts, a biomimetic sensor darkens when there is an amount of CO in the surrounding environment. This device can be connected to an infrared source of photons, or it can be used directly. The semiconductor has thin wires with tin dioxide on a ceramic base that can sense the gas. This sensing element is heated to 400 °C, the oxygen increases the resistance of the tin dioxide and minimizes the resistance of the carbon monoxide. Electrochemical sensors have proven to be the most useful because it uses electrodes that allow an accurate detection when a change in electric current happens – which indicates the presence of the gas.
You can choose between two main types of CO alarms – independent and interconnected units. As the name suggests, interconnected units are multiple devices that are linked together in order to sound the alarm. When one of the units detects carbon monoxide, all the devices will sound. They are challenging to install since they usually require wiring.
Along with that, they can be expensive due to the sophisticated system they have. Because of that, many choose to install independent units that are essentially one of those connected units that are not linked or connected to any other unit. You need to install multiple separate units in each room to get proper protection, but they will make sure you get full coverage. Additionally, they are battery powered and less expensive.
Even though there are only three types of power source for the devices – battery-operated, plug-in or hardwired, each device must have a backup that will kick in in case of power outages. Plug-in and battery-operated devices are much easier for installing. They can be placed in a lot of areas of your home, to offer better protection. Hardwired devices are difficult to install on your own, but after they are installed, you don’t worry about them.
Many of the CO detectors can be multi-functional – they can double as a smoke detector, which means that they will be able to detect traces of both carbon monoxide and smoke. However, since they function as two devices in one, they can be expensive.
The normal lifespan for these devices is at least five years, but many can last for ten years. However, you need to keep in mind that detectors that last longer, usually have a higher price.
Most of these devices have a digital display that shows you the current carbon monoxide level in your home and gives you insight if there is a potential leak. With a screen, people can have additional reassurance about the safety of their homes. It will also help emergency responders determine the level of CO that you were exposed to and figure out the best treatment.
The concentration of the gas is measured in parts per million (ppm). Most of these appliances can detect levels from 30 ppm and above. However, some more sensitive models can find low levels of even 10 ppm. These devices are a good option for individuals that live with people who have a significantly greater risk of CO poisoning.
Smart-home devices are one of the best types. They use the wireless connection of your home to send a notification to your phone about current levels of carbon monoxide, and the battery life of the appliance as well. These smart-home detectors have proven to be useful if you are away from your home and want to know your home and the people there are safe. They can even work together with other smart-home appliances in your home. However, these devices are usually quite expensive.
In order to be sure that the detectors met global safety standards, you need to see if Underwriters Laboratories Standard certifies them. Devices that have certification will also have a label that states the expiration date and expected lifespan. Some states might require that the devices have a UL certification, which is also safer for you.
Every year, there are approximately 200 deaths and 5000 injuries in America from accidental CO poisoning. A research and report conducted by the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) indicates that frequent accidents or even deaths are caused by improper use or malfunctions of the equipment. If there is a malfunction, it can cause a limited air flow of our homes or fires that will create high levels of carbon monoxide. This can happen with any appliance – furnaces, dryers, gas stoves, portable fuel-burning space heaters, water heaters, generators, fireplaces, and wood-burning stoves, if they are improperly installed or malfunctioning. With this being said, it is essential to have regular inspections of the appliances.