The question of where to place carbon monoxide detectors should be a matter of safety and effectiveness—not convenience. An average of 430 Americans die each year from poisoning by colorless, odorless carbon monoxide gas (CO). Many expire in their sleep, having dozed off for the night totally unaware that their home was filling with this deadly combustion byproduct. CO gas is emitted by gas-fired appliances, water heaters and furnaces. Any internal combustion engine such as an auto or lawnmower also produces it. In properly operating systems with functional vents, the small amount of carbon monoxide released is insignificant and exhausted to the outdoors. However, when defective burners allow incomplete combustion, vents are obstructed, or a negative pressure condition in the house sucks vented gas back indoors, CO gas can accumulate to dangerous levels. Lower levels of CO exposure have an effect too, so be mindful of that possibility, too.
Carbon monoxide detectors continuously "sniff" the air and sound a piercing, smoke alarm-style alarm when excess CO is detected. Deciding where to place carbon monoxide detectors involves two considerations:
- The location where the detector will most likely be exposed to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide gas but not harmless traces due to cooking or heating/cooling that produce false alarms.
- The location where all family members will hear the alarm, especially if they are asleep.
Follow these guidelines issued by the Consumer Products Safety Commission when deciding where to place carbon monoxide detectors:
- One carbon monoxide detector should be installed on every level of the home, centrally located near sleeping areas on that level.
- Installation on the wall versus the ceiling varies according to specific manufacturer’s advice. Read the instructions supplied with your unit. Since CO tends to rise with warm air, generally speaking, a high wall location near the ceiling or on the ceiling itself is usually recommended.
- To avoid false alarms, don’t place CO detectors within 15 feet of heating or cooking equipment or inside areas with high humidity such as bathrooms.
Finally, know that these devices have a life expectancy and need to be replaced periodically. check the manufacturer's directions and put the installation and replacement date in the detector the day it is installed. For more advice on where to place carbon monoxide detectors or to schedule professional installation, contact P.K. Wadsworth Heating & Cooling.