CO Alarm

What is it?
An electronic device that alerts you when carbon monoxide exceeds safe levels.

Why you need it
CO is tasteless, odorless, invisible, and deadly. And it's next to impossible for the human body to detect, even while being actively poisoned.

How it works
A sensor continually samples the air for CO molecules; a microprocessor collects the sensor's data, analyzes it, and sounds the alarm if CO concentrations become dangerous: at least 70 parts per million, or ppm, over a 4-hour period.

Where to install it
In upstairs hallways, 5 feet off the floor and no more than 10?15 feet from bedroom doors; in rooms with boilers and furnaces.

Don't install it
In bathrooms or other areas with high humidity, or within 5 feet of fuel-burning stoves and ovens.

What it costs
$20 to $100, depending on features.

The Truth About Test Kits

Playing on fears of malfunctioning CO alarms, some companies fill cans and capsules with CO and sell them to homeowners for do-it-yourself testing. These kits certainly will set off an alarm if the unit is functioning, but flooding a sensor with a dose many times higher than what it's designed to sniff out won't verify if an alarm will sound at the lower levels that are just as hazardous.

What's more, the kits aren't even necessary. CO alarms have a test button that simulates a CO spike and exercises the circuit right down to the alarm. Besides, an alarm's circuitry is continually monitoring itself. If the sensor malfunctions or wears out, it should trigger a warning tone.
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