Installing (and maintaining) carbon monoxide detectors in your home is one of the best ways you can protect the health and safety of your family. Every year, according to the CDC, at least 430 people die of accidental carbon monoxide poisonings and around 50,000 people visit the emergency room due to accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.
“Carbon monoxide poisoning is the second leading cause of poisoning in the home—that’s how serious it is and common it is,” explains Chuck Roydhouse, retired professional firefighter and president of the Chimney Safety Institute of America. Carbon monoxide detectors are important because not all sources of the gas are obvious and the gas is impossible to detect on your own. “Carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless, and tasteless, without a carbon monoxide detector, you may not know you’re being exposed to carbon monoxide until it’s almost too late,” Roydhouse explains.
The initial symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can also be mistaken for other illnesses. “[It] gives a lot of flu-like symptoms—headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, shortness of breath, and fatigue—so, when you have CO poisoning symptoms in the winter, you may simply assume you’ve got the flu,” he continues.
This is especially true, he says because the most common source of carbon monoxide inside the home comes from home heating systems, which are used in winter—a time of year that also happens to be flu season. The biggest risk of carbon monoxide poisoning in the home comes from gas and wood burning appliances, such as furnaces, gas ovens, stoves, water heaters, and gas-powered clothes dryers. Other potential sources are "powered by internal combustion engines such as portable generators, cars, and lawn mowers," says Karla Crosswhite-Chigbue of the CPSC (U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission).
Portable generators are especially relied on during hurricane season, with the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) predicting that "the average Atlantic hurricane season will reflect more storms." However, portable generators have the ability to expose individuals to increased risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and fire.
The good news is that carbon monoxide detectors are relatively affordable, reliable, and easy to set up.
Here are the best carbon monoxide detectors on the market today.