A carbon monoxide detector can save your family from being poisoned by the odorless, colorless gas that leaks from everyday household items, such as power generators, dryer vents, and gas and wood-burning fireplaces. Every year in the U.S., more than 400 people die from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning and another 50,000 visit an emergency room for treatment, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Prevention can cost as little as $20, but with so many carbon monoxide detectors on the market, it can be tough to figure out which best suits your home. Read on for our recommendations, plus important advice on essentials to consider before you shop.
What to Consider
Carbon monoxide (CO) detectors can be battery-operated, plug-in, or hardwired (with backup batteries in case of a power failure). Battery-operated alarms are the easiest to install and usually budget-friendly, though you’ll need to regularly check for dead batteries.
Carbon monoxide alarms often include smoke detectors, which can have ionization sensors for detecting fast-burning fires or photoelectric sensors that detect smoldering, smoky fires. Some detectors include both and are called dual-sensor alarms, though they’re harder to find.
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The most basic detectors are simple alarms, whereas more sophisticated models can come with digital displays, LED warning lights, voice alerts, location detectors that pinpoint the source of a carbon monoxide leak, or peak memory features that record the highest levels of carbon monoxide (handy if you’re away for long periods of time). There are also smart carbon monoxide detectors that connect to your home ecosystem.
If you live in a large space, particularly in a multilevel home, you should opt for devices that can be interconnected, with several units around the house that create a network for better coverage. As for where to install them in your home, you’ll need one on every level and in every bedroom.
How We Evaluated
Every carbon monoxide detector we recommend below has an average customer rating of at least four stars. We cast a wide net to find the best options on the market, digging into our own research, gathering and digesting statistics and other information from the CDC, and considering expert sources such as Consumer Reports and Wirecutter. Our list of the best carbon monoxide detectors includes models with different power sources and features that span a range of price points. For each device, we also report its dimensions, so you can map out the wall space it will take up while you wait for it to arrive at your door.