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Carbon monoxide (CO) is colorless, odorless gas that’s deadly to humans and animals. Your best defense against CO poisoning is to install carbon monoxide detectors and alarms throughout your home – on every floor and outside all bedrooms.
Today’s CO detectors and alarms are easy to use and easy to install. You can buy ones that double as smoke detectors, or you can buy standalone CO alarms. You can even get smart-home CO detectors that alert you on your smartphone when the levels get too high. There are types to meet all needs and budgets, with prices ranging from $25 to $125.
Check out our top picks for carbon monoxide detectors and alarms. Then read our Buyer’s Guide to find the best one to keep you and your loved ones safe.
Best Carbon Monoxide Detectors and Alarms
Editor’s Choice – First Alert SCO501CN-3ST Battery Operated Combination Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm with Voice Location
Best Plug-in – Kidde KN-COPP-3 Nighthawk AC Plug-in Operated Carbon Monoxide Alarm with Digital Display
Best Display – First Alert CO615 Dual-Power Plug-In Carbon Monoxide Detector with Battery Backup and Digital Display
Best Smart Alarm – Nest Protect Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm
The First Alert SCO501CN-3ST is a combination smoke and carbon monoxide alarm. You can connect it with other OneLink First Alert alarms to create a system of CO monitoring in your home. When one alarm sounds, all the others will, too.
The Voice Alarm is its standout feature. You can program up to 11 locations within your home, and the alarm will verbally alert you precisely where the danger is. You’ll be warned when the battery is low, and one-touch buttons make it easy to hush false alarms and test the device.
The First Alert SCO501CN-3ST is battery operated, with 2 AA batteries and mounting hardware included, so you can easily install it yourself on a wall or ceiling. This alarm packs a lot of functionality into a single device, which is why it’s our Editor’s Choice.
The Kidde Nighthawk combines the reassurance of a digital display with the easiest installation option available – a wall plug-in. Users can plug the device directly into the wall, or use the included 6-foot retractable power cord to mount it on a wall or place it on a table top. If the power goes out, the 9-volt battery backup kicks into gear, so you’re never without monitoring.
The Kidde Nighthawk’s digital display shows the current CO levels in the house, with sensitivity as low as 11 ppm. LED lights indicate whether the sensor is working properly, and one-touch test buttons make additional confirmation easy. Users can touch the Peak Level button to see the highest CO level recorded since the last time the unit was reset or unplugged.
2-, 4-, and 6-pack versions are also available.
As a plug-in carbon monoxide detector, the First Alert CO615 is easy to mount, and comes with a 6-foot power cord if you want to place it higher on a wall or ceiling. Users can install batteries using a front-load flap, so you’re still protected even if the power goes out.
At 85 decibels, this alarm is definitely loud enough to wake you up. One-touch buttons make testing the alarm and silencing false alarms quick and easy, too.
The digital display provides more information than most carbon monoxide alarms, not only displaying the levels, but also indicating the CO levels and battery life graphically. Additionally, the device will read “EVACUATE” if the CO levels are unsafe.
The big selling point of the Nest Protect is that it makes everything crystal clear in the smartphone app. Instead of tearing your hair out over an annoying chirp, or wondering whether your device is still working, you can tell instantly from your smartphone. The app notifies you whenever the battery is low and self-checks the alarm regularly to ensure it’s still working properly. You can hush alarms from your phone, too.
As a smart device, the Nest Protect connects with other smart devices in your home, so it may flash the lights if the alarm is going off and the voice alarm will tell you from which room the CO is coming from. This is the combination smoke/carbon monoxide alarm for the smart home era.
The Nest Protect is available in battery-operated and wired versions, and shoppers can purchase expert installation direct through Amazon. At over $100, this carbon monoxide detector isn’t cheap, but for those who want the security of monitoring their CO levels anywhere with their smartphone, the price may be worth it.
The Kidde KN-COPP-B-LPM includes a digital display so homeowners can monitor the CO levels in their home throughout the day. The high-sensitivity carbon monoxide alarm detects levels from 11 to 999 ppm, and updates the reading every 15 seconds. Additionally, colored LED lights indicate when levels are safe (green) or unsafe (red).
The Kidde KN-COPP-B-LPM is easy to mount and once installed, batteries can be replaced using a sideout door with no dismounting required. With a 10-year warranty, this is one of the longest lasting models you’ll find.
For less than $50, shoppers can get a two-pack of the Kidde KN-COPP-B-LPM, which is a great value. 4, 6, and 8-pack options are also available so you can affordably equip your home.
Carbon monoxide is deadly. Since we can’t smell or see carbon monoxide, it’s important that you can rely on your carbon monoxide detector or alarm to alert you if it senses carbon monoxide in your home.
To find the best carbon monoxide detector for your home, familiarize yourself with the key features below.
What else do you need to know when shopping for a carbon monoxide detector? Below we answer the frequently asked questions people have about these important safety devices.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that’s deadly to humans and animals. Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of gas and oil fuel-burning devices, like cars, engines, portable generators, stoves, charcoal grills, and fireplaces. When carbon monoxide builds up in an enclosed indoors area, like your home, it can be deadly.
Because it’s invisible and doesn’t have a smell, we rely on carbon monoxide detectors and alarms to let us know when we’re at risk of CO poisoning. According to the CDC, unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning causes over 400 deaths and 4,000 hospitalizations each year.
Any home that has fuel-burning appliances, including stoves, grills, water heaters, furnaces, and engines, should have carbon monoxide detectors installed. Even if the devices in your home are electric, but your home is connected to a garage that contains cars, you should use a carbon monoxide detector to alert you if CO ever gets into the house.
When we breathe in carbon monoxide, we’re at risk of CO poisoning. Too much carbon monoxide can cause you to pass out or die. If you have a headache or upset stomach, vomit, feel dizzy or weak, or experience chest pain, you may have carbon monoxide poisoning.
If you suspect you have carbon monoxide poisoning, leave the area immediately to get outdoors and call 911.
Carbon monoxide detectors have a sensor that measures the levels of carbon monoxide in your home. When the levels reach an unsafe amount, the device will sound an alarm to alert you.
Depending on the type and included features, carbon monoxide detectors range from $25 to $125. When budgeting, remember that you’ll need to purchase an alarm for each floor of your home, as well as for each bedroom.
Place your carbon monoxide detector in an area where you’ll be able to hear it if it sounds off. If it goes off while you’re sleeping, you want it to be close enough to your bedroom for it to wake you up.
If you have people sleeping in multiple bedrooms, place a CO detector outside each bedroom. If you have multiple floors in your home, there should be at least one detector on each floor.
A majority of states have legislation dictating where you must install the carbon monoxide detector. You can view your state’s laws here.
Your carbon monoxide detector will come with safety instructions that tell you how long you can expect the alarm to function properly. This will also be clearly indicated on the box.
Unless your alarm is designed to work for longer, you should plan to replace your carbon monoxide detector every five years. Check the battery at least twice a year to ensure it’s still working properly, and replace it if not.
One of the best ways you can prevent carbon monoxide poisoning is by installing carbon monoxide alarms and maintaining them properly.
You should also never use generators or grills indoors, and never use a gas-powered stove to heat your home. The CDC offers additional CO poisoning prevention tips on their website, such as how to maintain and safely use your fuel-burning appliances.