How To Test a Carbon Monoxide Alarm Sensor Properly


You have a smoke detector in your home, right? Of course, you do! Everyone knows the importance of strategically placing smoke detectors throughout the home to tell you if a fire breaks out. But do you also have carbon monoxide detectors?

Carbon monoxide is a dangerous gas that sends 20,000 people to the emergency room every year. Unfortunately, about 400 of those people die. Unlike smoke from a fire, you can’t see carbon monoxide. You can’t smell it either. That is what makes this deadly gas so dangerous. And it is in every house – yours included!

What Is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of burning fuel. When your furnace or hot water heater is running, it is creating carbon monoxide. This is normal, and if there is enough oxygen (and ventilation) in the area to turn that carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide everything is fine and your family is safe. But, if for some reason, oxygen levels in your basement, garage, or anywhere else in your house are not high enough for this switch to occur, carbon monoxide can build up – and kill you.

How Can I Check For It in My Home?

Just like smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors can be installed anywhere in your home to determine if the levels of CO are safe. In the event that carbon monoxide levels begin to increase, an alarm will sound, letting you know that the air you are breathing could be dangerous.

There are a lot of different types of carbon monoxide detectors. Some are attached to smoke detectors, but stand-alone models are usually best. They can be plugged into an outlet, or run solely off of batteries. Many can even be hard-wired into your home’s electrical system. For best results, always be sure that the ones you choose have a battery backup to keep the unit running during a power failure.

Is Your Carbon Monoxide Detector Working Correctly?

Installing CO detectors in your home is an important first step – but remember, it is only one step toward keeping your family safe.

carbon-monoxide-detector-working-perfectlyMaintaining the unit and checking it regularly (every few months) is vital to ensuring that it is working properly.

Every month or so, take a few minutes to hit the test button and see if the alarm sounds. This will tell you that the alarm is still working and the electrical supply is still running within the unit. But that’s not enough.

Yes, testing the alarm is good, but consider this: all hitting that button is really telling you is that the device is powered; the alarm itself still sounds, and the test button works. It doesn’t really tell you anything about the sensor inside – and that is the most important part of the detector and how it works. You want to make sure that the sensor inside the unit is still capable of detecting carbon monoxide.

Testing the Interior Sensor – a Vital Safety Consideration

To test the actual sensor you are going to have to trick the detector into thinking that there is carbon monoxide in your home. Instead of taking down all of your CO detectors and lining them up inside of a closed garage and turning on your car to see if the alarm sounds, try this much simpler trick: buy a can of Solo C6 Carbon Monoxide Detector Tester. It costs less than $20 and can be used multiple times to test the sensors in your Co detectors. Simply follow the directions on the back of the can to get the best possible results from your in-home test.

Why is it so important to take this extra step in testing whether or not your CO detectors are working? After all, isn’t that what that green light is for? To tell you everything is fine? Well, yes – and no. The green sensor light on your detector only tells you if the circuitry in your unit is working; not necessarily that the sensor can still detect dangerous levels of carbon monoxide in the air. This simple test, however, will tell you immediately, that the detectors are in good working order and it only takes seconds to complete.

The danger of carbon monoxide poisoning and death is real. Don’t take a chance that your detectors will fail. Test them regularly and replace them as needed. That is the only way to ensure that the air you and your family are breathing is safe.