Buying Detectors—for Fire + Carbon Monoxide | Bryan Bechler
Bryan Bechler

Buying Detectors—for Fire + Carbon Monoxide


According to the CDC, there are an average of 430 carbon monoxide poisoning deaths every year in the U.S.  And the National Fire Protection Association reports that there is one home structure fire every 86 seconds in the U.S.—with a total of 387,000 residential fires in 2013.

Why should I buy fire and carbon monoxide detectors?

Fire detectors can save your family from a middle-of-the-night fire, while carbon monoxide (CO) detectors can prevent you from accidental poisoning by carbon monoxide—a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas produced by burning fuels such as gasoline, propane, natural gas, oil or wood (it’s sometimes called the “silent killer”). It can be released by a cracked furnace, gas stove, water heater, gas dryer, fireplace, or even space heater.

Where should I put them in my home?

Fire and carbon monoxide detectors should be installed:

  • On every level of your home
  • In all sleeping areas
  • At least 15 ft. away from fuel-burning appliances

Do I need to test my detectors?

Ideally, you should test your alarms at least 1x/month. Wipe them down after testing to clear away dust that can block sensors.  On battery-operated detectors, change the batteries once a year.

Most battery-powered and hardwired smoke detectors can be tested simply by pressing and holding the “test” button. Listen for the test voice alert (or beeps), and make sure it’s loud enough to hear throughout the house. If you do not hear a message or beeps, then it may be time to replace the batteries—or the entire detector unit, if it’s old enough.

How do I buy the best detector?

There are many different detectors on the market today—including battery-operated systems, systems hardwired into your electrical, or stand-alone “smart” systems that provide integrated, wireless, whole-house protection.

Alarms use beeps, voice alerts, or strobe lights to signal possible danger. A few types to choose from:

  • Ionization alarms—detect fast-burning fires
  • Photoelectric alarms—detect smoky, smoldering fires
  • Carbon monoxide (CO) alarms—detect carbon monoxide leaks
  • Combination alarms—detect both smoke and carbon monoxide leaks

When should I replace my detectors?

Most carbon monoxide detectors wear out after 5-7 years, while smoke detectors can last up to 10 years. Here’s a tip: check the back of your detector for a “build date” (or expiration date). Replace the detector immediately if there’s no date listed, or if it’s more than 10 years old.

Need help with placing your fire and carbon monoxide detectors? OurHomeWarranty Plus partner, AB May, can help.