How Do Carbon Monoxide Detectors Work?

In this article, we’ll look at how carbon monoxide detectors work and why they are important for homes.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas that can be deadly if inhaled in large quantities.

It is created when any fuel, including gas, oil, kerosene, wood, or charcoal, is burned. If CO poisoning is not detected early enough, it can cause flu-like symptoms and even death.

That is why having a carbon monoxide detector in your home is critical.

Carbon monoxide detectors are intended to alert you when dangerous levels of the gas are present in your home and to provide you and your family with peace of mind by monitoring the air quality 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

carbon monoxide detector beeping

How Do Carbon Monoxide Detectors Work?

Carbon monoxide detectors are designed to detect dangerous levels of carbon monoxide in a home. They measure the amount of CO present using a chemical reaction, and if dangerous concentrations are detected, an alarm will sound to alert you.

The detectors work by using a semiconductor sensor with an internal electrochemical cell that reacts to CO molecules in the air, triggering an alarm when levels reach unsafe concentrations.

The detectors are typically battery-powered or plugged into an electrical outlet, and they should be placed in high risk areas like bedrooms, attics, and basements.

Regular testing of carbon monoxide detectors is necessary to ensure that they are working properly and providing accurate readings.

Types of Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Electrochemical detector: This type uses a chemical reaction to measure the amount of carbon monoxide present and will sound an alarm when it finds dangerous concentrations.

Optical detector: This type has sensors that look for any changes in light patterns caused by the presence of carbon monoxide gas. It also sounds an alarm if it detects dangerous levels of CO.

Biomimetic detector: This one uses special materials that change color when they come into contact with carbon monoxide, so you can easily see if there are high levels present. Once again, if it detects dangerous concentrations, it will sound an alarm.

Where Should Carbon Monoxide Detectors Be Placed?

The placement of your carbon monoxide detectors is an important factor in ensuring that you and your family remain safe.

Carbon monoxide detectors should generally be placed near the ground because carbon monoxide is heavier than air and tends to accumulate near the floor.

It’s also a good idea to have one detector on each floor of your house, as well as one outside in the garage or near any fuel-burning appliances.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Headache: One of the most common early signs of carbon monoxide poisoning is a dull, throbbing headache. It usually happens within a few hours of being exposed and is accompanied by nausea and vomiting.

Dizziness: Exposure to carbon monoxide can also cause lightheadedness, dizziness, confusion, or loss of consciousness.

Shortness of breath: As carbon monoxide accumulates in the bloodstream, it can cause difficulty breathing and chest pain.

Fatigue: Prolonged carbon monoxide exposure can cause extreme fatigue.


In conclusion, carbon monoxide detectors are an important safety device for any home. They can help detect dangerous levels of CO that may be present and sound an alarm to alert you if it finds anything.

There are three types of detectors available: electrochemical, optical, and biomimetic, each with their own set of benefits.

It’s also critical to place your detector near sources of fuel-burning appliances or near the ground, where CO is more likely to accumulate.

Test and inspect your detector on a regular basis, and replace it every 5-7 years, so you know it will work properly when it is most needed.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can be dangerous to your health, but by taking these precautions, you can keep your family safe from this silent killer gas at all times.


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