There are important factors to take into account when selecting the best place to install a carbon monoxide detector, and this post should give you a clear understanding of where they go and why.

Considering that throughout the developed world, Carbon Monoxide is the single biggest cause of accidental poisoning, having a plan for placement of detectors is essential. It’s not hard, and may save your life or the lives of your loved ones.

Areas inside the home

You will need detectors on each level of your home, including basements and attics that are in use. The reason; a dangerous build up of CO gas can often be trapped inside a single level of your home. Your main living level might be safe, but if you might go down to the basement, you could receive a dose of Carbon Monoxide because you failed to have a detector there.

The International Association of Fire Chiefs recommends a CO detector be placed on every floor of your home, including the attic and basement. A detector should be located within 10 feet of each bedroom door. Each detector should be replaced every five to seven years. The instructions include the specific replacement time frame for that unit. Furthermore, usually a label is attached to the detector, providing a place to record the replacement date for the unit in the future.

What about the garage?

If you have an enclosed garage that’s directly attached to the home, then you should place a detector within 10 feet of the internal door to your garage. You should also place a detector in any room situated directly above your garage, such as bedrooms or living rooms. If a car or motor cycle is left running in the garage, the level of Carbon Monoxide can quickly build up inside your home.

Where should they be installed?

Most guides recommend placing your detectors on the ceiling, like the Kidde brand. When CO is generated, it’s often contained within warm air coming from a combustion appliance, such as a furnace or water heater. If this is the case, carbon monoxide will rise along with the warmer air. The best way to detect CO at an early stage is with a detector mounted near the ceiling. Better if it’s in the path of a heat register.

I suggest mounting your detectors on the wall, about six inches below the ceiling. If your detector has a digital read-out, as many of them do, positioning them at that height would make them unreadable. I would not bother with the digital readout kind, and stick with the alarm type.

Suggested locations vary widely by manufacturer, and manufacturers’ recommendations differ based on research conducted with each company’s specific detectors. Therefore, be sure to read the installation manual for each model before installation.

CO detectors do not serve as smoke detectors, and vice-a-versa. Smoke detectors detect the smoke generated by flaming or smoldering fires, whereas CO detectors are designed to alert residents when CO levels rise above an accepted level. However, “dual-detection” smoke/CO detectors are available.

Where not to install a CO detector…

To ensure your alarm goes off only when needed, and not give you a false positive, you should place the detectors at least 15 feet away from any fossil fuel burning appliances such as:

  • Gas powered Kitchen Stove/Oven
  • Furnace
  • Fireplace

Carbon Monoxide Detectors are designed to work within particular tolerances for temperature and humidity. Therefor, the detectors should not be in the following locations:

  • Bathrooms
  • Direct Sunlight
  • Close to heat generating appliances (such as radiant baseboards)

Other places to avoid:

  • Places where children can reach (such as an outlet near the floor)
  • Open windows or anywhere there might be a strong draft
  • Behind curtains or anything that can prevent Carbon Monoxide from reaching the sensor

How can you prevent CO poisoning?

The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends every residence with fuel-burning appliances be equipped with at least one UL-Listed CO alarm. Nice start, but I would go a bit further.

In addition, take the following actions:

  • Make sure appliances are installed and operating, according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Have the furnace, water heater, chimney and vents inspected and serviced annually.
  • Examine vents and chimneys regularly for improper connections, cracks, rust or stains. Especially furnace and water heater flues.
  • Read your CO alarm’s user’s guide, and keep it near your CO alarm for quick reference.