Importance of Carbon Monoxide Detectors in the Home

Jul 25, 2018

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Iowans have reached the end of a two-year deadline for carbon monoxide (CO) detectors and other states are likely to follow suit. Former governor Terry Branstad signed a law into effect requiring Iowa residences with fuel-burning heaters, fireplaces, gas stoves and attached garages to install carbon monoxide detectors by July 1, 2018.

Because of it, we’d like to take this opportunity to cover the importance of carbon monoxide detectors in the home. We’ll cover what it is, the symptoms of CO poisoning, what a monitored CO detector is, where detectors should be installed and who should install them. Keep reading for what you need to know about CO!

What is Carbon Monoxide (CO) & What Happens When It’s Inhaled?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless, tasteless and highly toxic gas. It is produced when flame-fueled devices, such as heating systems, power tools, grills and ovens, malfunction or are not properly vented.

When inhaled, CO is absorbed into the bloodstream, replacing the oxygen traveling to vital organs throughout the body. Depending on the concentration of CO in the air and the length of exposure, effects can include a mild headache, drowsiness, nausea, dizziness, unconsciousness and suffocation. CO poisoning can occur with small amounts accumulating in the bloodstream over time, or large amounts being inhaled quickly.

Silent But Deadly: Why CO Detectors Should Always Be Monitored by Humans

Because CO is odorless, colorless and tasteless, it’s known as the silent killer. For that reason, it’s extremely important to keep several things in mind as you go about your approach to having detectors in your home. First, consider that CO fumes are liable to cause you to be delirious, which means getting help could be difficult, if not impossible. Therefore, having a human-monitored carbon monoxide detector can mean the difference between life and death.

How do CO detectors protect and what is a monitored CO detector?

CO detectors protect residents by monitoring the air and measuring the amount of CO present over a time interval. When dangerous levels are calculated, CO detectors flash and sound a temp-4 alarm.

Your home burglar alarm and smoke detectors are monitored 24/7 by our certified alarm monitoring agents, who place urgent calls to fire and police on your behalf when there is an alarm event. The same goes for monitored CO detectors which can be connected to the initiating circuit of a control panel that connects to a monitoring center.*

Supervised detectors provide peace of mind by adding an extra level of protection for situations in which you cannot respond to an unsupervised alarm, either because you’re sleeping, not home or you’ve already sustained severe injuries from the CO poisoning. If the CO concentration hits a dangerous level, you will not only be notified by the detector and the control panel, but also by the monitoring center. If you’re unreachable, the monitoring center may then send the proper authorities to investigate.

*Monitoring center procedures may vary; read more about our in-house, 24/7 Monitoring Center here.

Location, Location, Location: Placement of Your CO Detectors

Next, don’t underestimate the importance of placement. Might we suggest that this is one instance where you may want to skip the DIY and leave it up to the professionals who are trained to install your CO detectors in ideal locations throughout your home? For instance, all residences should have one on each floor, within 10 feet of all sleeping areas and inside any room containing fuel-burning appliances for optimum performance.

Shouldn’t CO detectors be placed right next to the biggest culprits?

One common misconception is to think that your CO detectors should be placed in close proximity to any fuel-burning appliance. Most homes have some level of CO in the air, which is measured in ppm (parts per million), and placement of the CO detector should be an accurate reading of the whole house, not just the area immediately adjacent to the offending appliance.

Professional Installation vs. DIY Detectors

When it comes time to decide, consumers have a choice in which type of carbon monoxide detector to purchase. We’re not doing our due diligence if we encourage store-bought devices and there are three reasons for that: 1) lack of live monitoring that accompanies the DIY variety, 2) potential placement and installation issues and 3) CO can be dangerous in small amounts over long periods of time. A store-bought detector may not catch the poisonous gas in lower levels whereas professionally installed monitors would.

But why even sell the DIY version?

The store-bought CO detectors are typically more affordable than the professional variety, which also requires professional installation. Having them on the market means that more homes will have them and something is better than nothing. If your budget allows for it, we encourage you to go the professional route.


  • Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas created when fuels burn incompletely (fuels such as gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil and methane).
  • CO poisoning is no joke, causing 400 deaths in 2015, which was the year before the Iowa law was passed.
  • If not death, CO poisoning can cause irreversible brain damage.
  • Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning usually include dizziness, weakness, vomiting, nausea and headaches.
  • The poisonous gas comes from furnaces, gas stoves, water heaters and car engines and is dangerous in excessive amounts.
  • Carbon monoxide calls to fire departments are more common during the early evening hours, during winter months and from residential properties.
  • CO poisoning can happen in small amounts over a long period of time or via a large amount over a short period of time.
  • In 2010, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 80,100 non-fire - an average of nine calls per hour - CO incidents in which carbon monoxide was found.

Source: National Fire Protection Agency (

We have more information on carbon monoxide available on our site or, better yet, we offer free consultations. Regardless of whether your state recognizes it as a law yet, the importance of carbon monoxide detectors in your home is clear and it’s our job to keep you Per Mar protected. Contact us for more information or request a free security review!


About The Author

System Administrator

System Administrator is an award-winning biographer, historian, and chronicler of exploration. His books have been translated into 25 languages worldwide.

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