How Many Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors Are Enough?

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Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are two of the most important items a home security toolkit can have. Both alarms prevent life-threatening dangers that are often silent and appear without warning. Whether the threat be fire, smoke, or carbon monoxide, the greatest threat to family and home occurs at night when everyone is asleep.  

In order to be prepared for a smoke or carbon monoxide incident, homes need to be equipped with the proper number of detectors. How many devices are needed will depend on the size of a home, how many bedrooms, and a few other variables. 

Here are some things to consider as you add smoke and CO detectors to your home.  

Smoke Detector Standards  

Smoke detectors should be installed inside of every bedroom, outside of all sleeping areas, and on every floor of a home.  

If a hallway is more than 40 feet (12 meters long), smoke detectors should be installed at both ends of the hallway. Remember to install smoke detectors in basements, dining rooms, and hallways that are not protected. 

Reminder:  Smoke alarms should not be installed in kitchens, attics (finished or unfinished), or in garages because these locations occasionally experience conditions that may result in improper operation and produce false alarms.   

Pro-Tip:  All devices, whether connected to a security system or not, must be powered by always-on power sources or live batteries.  

Containing Carbon Monoxide with Monoxide Detectors 

According to the International Association of Fire Chiefs, carbon monoxide detectors should be installed on every floor of the home, including basements. 

Detectors should be located within 10 feet of each bedroom door, and be placed near or over any attached garages. The Association of Fire Chiefs also recommends that detectors be replaced every five to six years, though some detectors are said to last up to 10 years. 

Smoke alarms should always be installed in a central location outside of each sleeping area and on every level of the home. Similar to smoke detectors, the most efficient method to protect the home is by using interconnected carbon monoxide alarms, so that if one alarm goes off, all of the alarms in home sound off together. 

Reminder:  Don’t place carbon monoxide detectors in cupboards, behind furniture, and near outside doors or ventilation. Never place alarms directly next to items that create flames or heat like boilers, cookers, or heaters. Alarms should be at least one meter away from these appliances. Similar to smoke alarms, don’t place CO detectors in areas of high condensation and steam, like a bathroom or a kitchen. For proper efficiency, alarms also should not be placed on a ceiling the way smoke alarms are. Smoke alarms are placed on ceilings because that’s how smoke rises. Carbon monoxide rises more slowly and can be deadly before it reaches ceiling height. A CO detector is usually placed lower on your wall. 

Carbon monoxide enters the body by being breathed in.  Symptoms often confuse victims. How does being poisoned by CO feel? 

  • CO poisoning often feels like the flu, food poisoning, and other common illnesses. 

  • Common symptoms include shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, a light- head, and headaches. 

  • At high levels, CO can be fatal and cause death within minutes. 

Quick Tips to Prevent a CO related incident: 

  • Use gas and charcoal grills outside. 

  • Test CO alarms once a month at minimum, once a week if possible. 

  • Call 911in an emergency. 

  • Gas cooking stove tops and ovens should not be used for supplemental heat. 

  • Follow all instructions from the CO manufacturer for placement, upkeep, and maintenance. 

  • The alarms you purchase should have a label proving recognition by a credible testing laboratory, and be UL certified. 

  • Schedule time for a skilled technician to inspect your fuel-burning appliances each year. This includes a fireplace, water heater, boiler, or chimney. 

  • If you must warm up a vehicle, always remove it from the garage after immediately starting it. Never run a vehicle or any device with a fuel engine indoors, even if garage doors are open. Make sure you never cover exhaust pipes of a running vehicle, so CO doesn’t seep into cars. 

Get Fast Detection in Your Home with Brinks Home™  

One of the most troubling things about carbon monoxide is that we can’t see it. However, our carbon monoxide detectors can. Brinks Home offers families connected CO detectors that  monitor the air in your home. When dangerous levels of CO are building up, the carbon monoxide detector alerts you and your loved ones to take action. Our life safety products also include smoke detectors. Mount these in your home for critical alerts that will warn you of danger and alert the fire department before it’s too late. 

And finally, one of the other benefits of securing your home with Brinks Home is that you’re not just limiting your home to one tier of security. You’re protecting your home with 24/7 professionally monitored systems. Interested in home security? Click to get a  free quote from Brinks Home

Krista Bruton is a DFW-based writer who covers smart home security and consumer protection.

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