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CO vs Smoke: Do You Need Both a Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Alarm?

Updated: Jun 20, 2023

Smoke detecter install

When it comes to protecting your home and family from potential dangers, having both a smoke alarm and carbon monoxide (CO) alarm is essential. While both types of alarms have their own unique benefits, it’s important to understand how they work together to provide maximum safety for you and your loved ones.

In this article, we will discuss the differences between carbon monoxide alarms and smoke alarms as well as why owning both is so important.

Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that can be fatal if inhaled in high concentrations. It is produced when fuel-burning appliances (think furnaces or water heaters) are not burning efficiently or have been improperly installed. While faulty appliances are the leading risk, carbon monoxide could also potentially enter your home from the exhaust of cars, generators, lawn mowers, and other gasoline-powered machinery.

The dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning are real, and the statistics back it up. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 400 people die from accidental CO poisoning every year in the United States, with over 100,000 more needing emergency room treatment for flu-like symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, confusion, chest pain and shortness of breath.

If left untreated or undetected in high concentrations over time, it can be fatal. Because it’s impossible to detect without an alarm system, having a carbon monoxide alarm is essential for keeping your family safe from this potentially deadly gas.

Setting Up Carbon Monoxide Alarm

How Do Carbon Monoxide Alarms Work?

Carbon monoxide monitors are an important safety device that can detect the presence of this potentially deadly gas in your home. CO monitors work by using a sensor to measure the amount of carbon monoxide in the air. If levels reach a certain threshold, the alarm will sound to alert you and your family of potential danger.

These devices are designed to be installed near any fuel-burning appliances, such as furnaces or water heaters, so they can quickly detect any buildup of carbon monoxide before it becomes dangerous.

It is also suggested that you place these alarms in or near bedrooms or living areas where people spend most of their time sleeping or watching television. By doing this you’ll ensure that if there is ever a problem with one of your appliances or exhaust systems, everyone in your home will be alerted immediately and can take action to avoid further harm.

There are a variety of affordable CO alarms out there. We offer a CO + Natural Gas 2-in-1 option manufactured by industry leader Universal Security Instruments. We like it because it covers both poisonous gasses in one device and can quickly and easily be installed just by plugging the device into an outlet. Other options exist, of course, but we recommend plug-in devices as opposed to battery-powered options just because it's easy to forget to change batteries.

Smoke Alarms

When it comes to property safety it's not a question of smoke alarms or carbon monoxide alarms. You need both.

Smoke alarms are essential, so much so that they're required by law. There really is no way around it, if you have any interest in keeping your home, property, family, or tenants safe then you need to have functioning smoke detectors installed throughout the property.

We cover smoke detectors extensively in its own article but here's a quick rundown of the basics to be aware of:

  • Smoke detectors work by sensing particles of smoke that enter the device and activate an alarm when enough of them are detected.

  • Detectors should be placed on each level of a home or apartment, specifically near any bedrooms and/or living areas.

  • Placing detectors too close to cooking appliances can cause frequent false alarms, which often leads people to disable them. Be sure to place them a reasonable distance away so that they don't go off every time someone cooks.

  • You should consider a smoke alarm monitoring system in addition to your smoke detectors. These devices connect to appliances like stoves or microwaves and help prevent dangerous fires by automatically cutting the power to the appliance when a smoke alarm goes off.

Smoke vs Carbon Monoxide

Like carbon monoxide detectors, smoke alarms are also available for a wide variety of prices. You can find standalone smoke alarms, 2-in-1 smoke + fire alarms, and even 4-in-1 alarms that detect smoke, fire, CO, and natural gas.

Whatever device you consider, just remember that these are essential for keeping your property safe so it's best not to simply go with the cheapest option out there. Be sure you get a high-quality, reliable device.

81 views2 comments


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Devin Stiles
Devin Stiles
Oct 11, 2023

The smoke alarm system is a very important security gadget to avoid fire incidents. Always contact Locksmith Durham NC experts because they arrive in your locality and install the best and most secure alarm system on your property at a reliable cost.

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