Overlooked Basics of Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Detector Alarms


Carbon monoxide and smoke detector alarms are two of the most important safety features that you can have in a home. However, the majority of people don’t think twice about them, unless the batteries need to be changed because they start beeping.

This is unfortunate.

There are a few things that smoke and carbon monoxide detectors do that are often overlooked. 

They Don’t Last Forever

While it is easy to see detectors in your home daily and forget that they are there, it is important to remember that you should be keeping them updated and testing them every now and then.

Smoke and CO detectors don’t last forever. This means that even if your detectors seem like they are working fine, they might be old and therefore faulty. 

The best way to make sure that they are still in good condition is by running a test to make sure that they still sound off. 

You can test your CO and smoke detectors by pressing the button on the front of the sensor. It is recommended that you test each of them about once a month to ensure that they are working and will alert you if there is a problem. 

You should also replace the batteries often, and most instructions recommend likely about every year or two. It is recommended that you replace the sensor itself about every 10-years, because that is their expected useful lifespan. Some newer detectors have a “sealed” battery which can’t be changed. These are usually lithium batteries designed to last the full 10-years of serviceable life. When the battery dies, the entire unit should be replaced.

There are Specific Places These Detectors Should Be 

While it may seem like having a smoke detector in every room is a bit overkill, it’s actually not. You should have a smoke detector in every bedroom and the hallways, and on each level of the home, but consider also placing them in common rooms to ensure that the house is fully covered. 

Smoke detectors don’t have a large range of what they can detect, so placing one in every room will give you a better chance of being alerted in time in the event of a fire. Seconds can be critical in these events. We just don’t recommend them in the kitchen as they will be prone to false alarms from cooking.

CO detectors on the other hand, should be placed in very specific areas. In fact, some homes don’t even require them. However, if you have either an attached garage, fireplace or fossil-fuel burning appliance (such as a gas stove, furnace or water heater), they are necessary. 

If one of these features are present in your home, you should have at least one CO detector on every level of your home. But that’s not the only place they need to be. More importantly, you don’t want to put them inside of bedrooms because you want to be alerted early. They don’t call Carbon Monoxide the “silent killer” for no reason. Instead, they should also be placed OUTSIDE of bedroom/sleeping-room doors, but within 10-feet of the door, at the highest point possible closest to or on the ceiling. This is so that you are alerted to an emergency if there is one, and the bedrooms are likely where you will be (maybe sleeping) more often than other areas. 

In addition, it’s a good idea to also place CO detectors by doors leading to garages, as this is another place where you can potentially have a CO infiltration from running cars, etc. 

Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detector Alarms aren’t a Choice

For almost every state, there are requirements for having both kinds of detectors in your home. Smoke detectors are absolutely essential to the safety of your home, and there are laws stating how many you should have according to the size of your home. 

In addition, there are also laws or codes about where CO detectors should be installed and how many you should have. 

In the event of an emergency, if you do not have properly working detectors in your home, and the right amount/placement of them, you could be partially liable for the damage to your home. 

Therefore, it is a good idea to check the requirements for smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in a home in your state, to ensure that your home is protected and you will be covered by insurance in case of a disaster.