The 8 Best Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Updated June 14, 2018 by Daniel Imperiale

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We spent 45 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Being odorless and colorless, carbon monoxide is a potentially lethal danger in any home, office, or workplace. But with today's technology, it's pretty easy to keep your employees, colleagues, and family safe from this silent killer. One of these CO detectors will quickly warn you at the first sign of dangerous levels in the air. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best carbon monoxide detector on Amazon.

8. First Alert Combination

Combining the utility of a deadly gas sensor with a smoke detector, the First Alert Combination is always ready to warn you of danger. It uses photoelectric detection technology, nearly eliminating the possibility of false alarms, and can be mounted to almost any surface.
  • two aa batteries included
  • three-chirp end-of-life alert
  • some units die quickly
Brand First Alert
Model SCO5CN
Weight 10.4 ounces
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

7. Honeywell Ademco Wireless

The battery-powered Honeywell Ademco Wireless can be easily mounted to most ceilings, and uses an electrochemical sensor for optimal accuracy. It features a normal status indicator and a low battery alarm to ensure continuous protection at all times.
  • can connect to home security systems
  • good option for hard-to-wire areas
  • only designed to last 5 years
Brand Ademco
Model 5800co
Weight 10.4 ounces
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

6. Pyle Handheld PCMM05

The Pyle Handheld PCMM05 makes it simple to test the safety levels in the air in both residential and industrial settings. It uses electrochemical sensors that react quickly to high concentrations of carbon monoxide and that produce both visible and audible alarm signals.
  • bright color stands out
  • lcd is easy to read at a glance
  • not for permanent installation
Brand Pyle
Model PCMM05
Weight 7.2 ounces
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

5. Kidde Digital C3010D

The Kidde Digital C3010D has a sealed lithium battery that will last for 10 years, so you don't have to worry about annoying low-battery chirps. It is tamper-resistant for your protection, so make sure to employ the deactivation switch before removing it from its mount.
  • sleek and compact design
  • updates readings every 15 seconds
  • sensor may act up in humid climates
Brand Kidde
Model 21010047
Weight 6.4 ounces
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

4. Kidde COPP-B-LPM

With a digital readout to monitor levels, the Kidde COPP-B-LPM reliably protects your property and family. It can be easily wall-mounted and its battery is simple to remove and replace, so there's no excuse for not putting in a fresh one when the time comes.
  • easy-to-read lcd screen
  • backed by a 10-year limited warranty
  • occasional false alarm issues
Brand Kidde
Model 21008873
Weight 11.4 ounces
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

3. Nest Protect 2

If you're the sort of person who likes to know what's going on with every aspect of your home even when you're not there, the Nest Protect 2 was made for you. It connects to your Wi-Fi network to send alerts to your phone, and works as a fire alarm, as well.
  • can be silenced remotely
  • available wired or battery-powered
  • easy to install and set up
Brand Nest
Model S3000BWES
Weight 1.8 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

2. BRK Electronics CO5120BN

Simple but effective, a 2-pack of the BRK Electronics CO5120BN allows you to ensure the air in your home is safe thanks to their microprocessor-controlled sensors. Each of these hard-wired models comes with a 9-volt battery for backup in case of a power outage.
  • battery is easy to replace
  • convenient silence and test button
  • easily connects with smoke alarms
Brand BRK Brands
Model 3055574
Weight 1.5 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

1. First Alert CO615

With a backlit, multifunctional display, the First Alert CO615 is built for reliability and dependability at all times. The unit's power indicator light is nice and bright, and it offers peace of mind by exceeding all required safety standards for use in American homes.
  • convenient peak level memory
  • plugs into a standard outlet easily
  • includes a built-in extension cord
Brand First Alert
Model CO615
Weight 11.8 ounces
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

What Is Carbon Monoxide?

A lot have things have been referred to as the silent killer in our vernacular, but few of those killers are as utterly undetectable to the human senses as carbon monoxide. The gas is colorless, odorless, tasteless, and ruthless in its ability to destroy human life. But what exactly is it?

Carbon monoxide consists of equal parts of two building blocks that are essential to life as we know it: carbon and oxygen. Comprised of a single oxygen atom and a single carbon atom, it’s a natural part animal metabolism in the majority of vertebrates and invertebrates alike. And, yet, it’s toxic to those life forms in a high enough concentration.

When carbon monoxide levels rise above 35 ppm, the gas poses a potentially lethal danger to humans and other animals. When you inhale carbon monoxide, you won’t feel it initially. It isn’t like helium, which can immediately alter your voice, or nitrous oxide, which dentists serve up to make you feel giddy while they drill holes in your face. With enough carbon monoxide taking up toxic portions of your breath, you’re liable to feel a little lightheaded and eventually fall asleep. Then, you die. Bummer, right?

The problem begins in the lungs, through which blood flows to drop of carbon dioxide and pick up oxygen. That oxygen binds to your hemoglobin and travels all around the body, invigorating everything from your brain to the muscles that require oxygen to function.

When carbon monoxide enters the lungs, it binds to your hemoglobin in place of oxygen. That means that your blood cells can’t carry that vital oxygen wherever it’s needed. You might not feel this in your muscles as much, but the effects of oxygen deprivation on your brain will be gradual and devastating.

In high enough concentrations, as when you run your car in an enclosed space, the effects are more swift. A smaller, but still toxic concentration, can be even more dangerous, as long-term exposure will usually manifest itself in symptoms akin to the flu, including nausea and mild headaches. Without a functional carbon monoxide detector, not only can these symptoms slowly turn into permanent damage to brain and lung tissue, but others in the vicinity will be susceptible to the toxic gas, as well.

This is why it’s so important to own and regularly check your carbon monoxide detector. It’s a small investment to make in the safety and health of everyone who enters your home.

How Do Carbon Monoxide Detectors Work?

Given the fact that carbon monoxide, even at lethal levels, is undetectable to the human senses, it’s a very good idea to employ a device that can detect it for you. When there’s a fire in the home, you can usually smell or see the smoke just as quickly as your smoke detector can. The advantage of a smoke detector is that it can wake you from sleep in the event of a fire, when your senses are too muted to notice the presence of danger.

A carbon monoxide detector has to be sensitive enough to detect a much less visible agent, and to do so without creating too many false alarms. After all, the boy who cried wolf eventually asphyxiated on CO2.

Fortunately, carbon monoxide’s propensity to interact with other chemicals and substances (including your hemoglobin) can actually be used to protect you from it. Carbon monoxide detectors usually function in one of three ways. They either utilize silica, chemical solutions, or a reactive gel to register the presence of the gas.

When carbon monoxide comes into contact with a chemical gel substance, the gel’s color changes. Detectors that use gel also often employ photo sensors akin to those found in photoelectric fire alarms. These simple sensors can register the change in gel color, and when they do, they sound the alarm.

Detectors that employ chemical solutions and silica-based detectors both rely on changes to electrical resistance as their triggers. When carbon monoxide interacts with silica, it alters the substance’s electrical impedance, which is monitored by the device’s circuit board. Large enough changes in impedance trigger the alarm. Similarly, small amounts of certain chemical solutions can respond to the presence of carbon monoxide with changes in the flow of electricity through them. Electrodes dipped in the chemical solution detect this change and sound the alarm.

Tips To Maximize Your Safety

In order to keep you and your family as safe as possible, owning a carbon monoxide alarm isn’t quite enough. You should be familiar with how your alarm is installed, as well as what to do if it needs any kind of maintenance. There are also a few additional purchases that can help ensure your safety.

Carbon monoxide alarms are either plug-in or battery-operated. Detectors that have to be plugged in are dependent on the placement of the outlets in your home for their efficacy. They often also have batteries inside them to act as backups should the power fail. You should routinely test these batteries to make sure you’ll remain safe no matter the power conditions.

Battery-operated carbon monoxide alarms require a little more attention, as you’ll want to keep their batteries as fresh as possible. The benefit of these is that you can install them anywhere, including in a garage that doesn’t have power running to it, to ensure your air is safe to breathe.

If you’re also worried about fire safety, there are combination alarms on the market that can serve both to detect smoke and carbon monoxide. It would also be a good idea to invest in a couple of high-quality fire extinguishers and to keep them in the most effective places, such as the kitchen, or by a fireplace.

Lastly, make sure you and your family have an escape plan in case of a fire or gas leak. This may necessitate the purchase of an escape ladder, as well as the development of a detailed evacuation plan. It may take a little up-front cost and planning, but you’ll be grateful if you ever need to use the tools and tactics you’ve acquired.

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Last updated on June 14, 2018 by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel is a writer, actor, and director living in Los Angeles, CA. He spent a large portion of his 20s roaming the country in search of new experiences, taking on odd jobs in the strangest places, studying at incredible schools, and making art with empathy and curiosity.

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