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How to Get the Carbon Monoxide Detector Placement Right

Abhijit Naik
As its name suggests, a carbon monoxide detector is a device designed to detect the presence of carbon monoxide in the surroundings. Helpful it definitely is, but only when you get its placement right.

What's in name?

With more than 150 deaths attributed to it every year, it is no surprise that carbon monoxide has earned the nickname Invisible Killer.
Carbon monoxide poisoning, which occurs when excessive amount of this gas is inhaled, can be life-threatening at times. The good part, however, is that it can be prevented by installing a carbon monoxide detector to monitor the levels of this gas in your home.
It is a simple device which sounds an alarm to warn you when it detects high concentration of CO in the atmosphere; thus, giving you ample time to take necessary safety measures.
Carbon monoxide is formed as a result of incomplete combustion of fuels. At home, it can be formed by space heaters, water heaters, refrigerators, or blocked chimneys. Every household should have a carbon monoxide detector in place to ensure that they are not exposed to the hazards of this harmful gas.

About Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Several different models of carbon monoxide detectors are available in the market, ranging from ones that are battery operated to electric detectors requiring wall outlets.
A smoke detector, mind you, is not the same as a carbon monoxide detector and thus, should not be used as a substitute for the same. In essence, the three types of carbon monoxide detectors are biometric, semiconductor-based, and electrolytic sensor detectors.

Biometric detectors

In these detectors, there is a hemoglobin disk in the alarm chamber, which darkens when it is exposed to carbon monoxide. The process is monitored by an LED sensor, which triggers an alarm as soon as the disk starts darkening.

Semiconductor-based detectors

Also known as MOS detectors, these detectors monitor the levels of CO using an in-built computer chip. In these detectors, the alarm is triggered by continuous influx of the gas.

Electrolytic sensor detectors

Last, but most efficient are the electrolytic sensor detectors―the fastest-acting detectors available in the market―which use electro-chemical sensors to detect the changes in carbon monoxide levels.
While biometric and MOS detectors are relatively inexpensive, you will have to shell out some extra money to buy an electrolytic sensor detector.

Best Place to Install a CO Detector

While the type is definitely important, even more important is proper placement of carbon monoxide detectors. You can either install a single device―ideal if you have a small house―or a couple of them.
If you intend to install a single device for your small house, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) suggests that you install it in the area where you sleep. It will make sure that you hear the alarm and wake up even if you are in a deep slumber.
If you reside is a multi-storied building, it is wise to install a couple of devices, with each level having a separate device. Having additional detectors―one at each level or each room―is always better, considering that it doesn't leave any loose ends.
If you have two bedrooms, it is wise to devote one detector each to both rooms. Additionally, one will go into your living room and one in the basement―that's if you have one.
The specific gravity of carbon monoxide is 0.9657, while that of air is 1. So, both are roughly of the same weight. However, it's worth noting that carbon monoxide is often accompanied by warm air released by appliances like heaters, with which it rises. 
So, it is ideal to place the CO detector at a considerable height in the house―roughly a foot or two from the ceiling. If, however, the device that you have chosen provides a reading, then you will have to fix it at your eye level.
While most sources recommend against installing a carbon monoxide detector in the garage, you might have to install one there, if the garage is attached to your house or there is a door which leads into the house through it. That especially make sense when you keep the car engine running to warm up the engine.

Where Not to Install the Detector?

When we talk about carbon monoxide detector placement, knowing where not to place it is also important. 
For instance, you should never install it close to fuel burning appliances. Having a detector right above or anywhere close to such appliances can trigger the alarm on the release of small amount of carbon monoxide, which usually happens when you start them.
Similarly, the detector shouldn't be placed within a periphery of 15 feet of any cooking or heating appliances, or the fireplace for that matter. Similarly, you don't need a CO detector in the kitchen or bathroom, as the device will always be vulnerable to false alarms in these places.
At times, the manufacturers themselves suggest the ideal location for carbon monoxide detector in the product manual. Make sure you go through the same before initiating the installation process.
We can't stop stressing on the fact that no matter which detector you buy, the most important factor will be where you place it. Just having a CO detector is meaningless; for it to work efficiently, it should be planted at the right place.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is a serious threat which can lead to grave health problems and thus, it's better to buy a detector and avoid this condition in the first place.