How To Place Your Carbon Monoxide Detector

How To Place Your Carbon Monoxide Detector

Posted on 29. Oct, 2009 by in HVAC Care

There are a few different opinions out there about the best placement. The most important placement procedures seem to have more to do with room location than location on the wall. The International Association of Fire Chiefs recommends a carbon monoxide detector on every floor of your home, including the basement. A detector should be located within 10 feet of each bedroom door (so that you can hear it when you are sleeping) and there should be one near or over any attached garage. Each detector should be replaced every five to six years.

The more common view (and what it states on our carbon monoxide detectors) is to place them around eye level. This allows for easy reading. Additionally, carbon monoxide is roughly the same density as nitrogen gas and less dense than oxygen. Plus, CO coming out of a heat source will generally be warm (and therefore even less dense) and so it is likely to rise up in the air. In practice, the densities are so close, and there is often a lot of convection currents in a room mixing the air, that there is not much difference in CO concentration. Different manufacturers actually recommend different placement based on the studies their specific company has done.

Given that my CO Detectors plug in to an outlet and I don’t have any outlets at eye level, that was not an option for me. So I instead focused on thinking about where the best placement was for my detectors. I took another look at the CO detector manual for additional placement instructions:

- place a detector near (but not in) the garage;
- to avoid nuisance alarms, do not place a detector within 5 feet of heating or cooking appliances;
- do not place detectors near windows, doors, fans, forced air registers or returns;
- do not place detectors behind things (including drapes) that may block the air flow.

Oops! I did not have one near the garage, I had one too close to my wood stove, and one behind a sofa outside my bedroom. So I moved my wood stove to the powder room near the garage, and I moved the one from behind the sofa to our master bathroom, since our bedroom outlets are all near forced air registers.

As I thought about the registers, I realized that we all sleep with our bedroom doors closed. If there were a CO problem and the furnace or A/C was on (as it is for most of the year), the CO would most likely enter our rooms through the vents rather than from our open, high-ceiling, vent-less hallway where the Co Detector was. So I moved the hallway detector into one of my children’s bedrooms and bought an additional one for my other child’s bedroom. The only detector I had gotten right was the one outside our furnace room!

Now I sleep better at night knowing that I’ve done my best to make sure it’s a safe night for the entire family.

By Sue Dorward