Skip to main content

21OAK may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

How to test for carbon monoxide safely

Carbon monoxide is poisonous when breathed in, and it can be deadly if you’re exposed to it for too long. A carbon monoxide leak is possible in most homes, so it’s a good idea to be proactive about putting preventative measures in place. If you suspect a gas leak, you should immediately get your home tested, but periodic tests are also a good way to get ahead of the problem. We’re going to discuss the dangers of carbon monoxide in your home and how to detect it and test for it to keep your family safe.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

What are the dangers of carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide poisoning gradually reduces your blood’s ability to carry oxygen to your body. It’s a dangerous condition because the first signs present as flu-like and include mild nausea, headaches, and fatigue. This makes it seem less than serious and causes people to wait too long to seek medical attention. However, as exposure time lengthens, symptoms intensify, and victims can experience incapacitating headaches, disorientation, loss of consciousness, and even heart failure. Another danger of carbon monoxide is that it’s odorless and colorless, so it’s difficult for people to detect until the leak has become a health risk.

Where does carbon monoxide come from?

When fuel burns, it emits carbon monoxide. This means that malfunctions in appliances can produce large amounts of carbon monoxide. Additionally, burning fuel while having poor air circulation can also increase the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Some common household items that are potential sources of carbon monoxide are:

  • Gas appliances
  • Water heaters
  • Furnaces
  • Fireplaces
  • Gas-powered vehicles
  • Charcoal grills
  • Wood burning stoves

Telltale signs of a carbon monoxide leak

The first thing you’ll likely notice when there’s a carbon monoxide leak in your home is that everyone, not just one person, is feeling flu-like symptoms. You may even notice that your pets don’t seem to be feeling well. It’s a big red flag when everyone gets sick simultaneously. Additionally, appliances that are leaking carbon monoxide sometimes show signs of their own. These signs include higher levels of condensation around them and yellowish soot on or around the appliance.

Quick test for carbon monoxide detectors

The fastest and easiest way to monitor carbon monoxide in your home is to have working and fully operational carbon monoxide detectors. These detectors are either hard-wired into your electrical system or are powered with batteries. Both types have pros and cons:

Hard-wired detectors

  • Can be connected with one another and sound the alarm on all when one is triggered
  • Will not work when the power goes out

Battery-operated detectors

  • Will work even when the power goes out
  • Require battery changes to remain functional

Whichever power method you choose for your detector, a great function of many models, like Google Nest Protect , is that they can be integrated into your home’s existing security system. Many even have dual functions and also detect smoke and heat.

Where to install carbon monoxide detectors

It’s advised that detectors are installed on every floor of the home, including the basement. Additionally, installing detectors in areas where appliances and other items that emit carbon monoxide are housed is a good idea. These rooms include your kitchen if you have gas-powered appliances, over your attached garage door, and especially in your basement. On upper floors that only contain bedrooms, it’s sufficient to install a detector in the hallway connected to all of the bedrooms. This will ensure that the sounding alarm will wake you if there’s a carbon monoxide leak while you’re sleeping.

Since carbon monoxide is lighter than standard air, detectors should be placed high on the wall or on the ceiling. Placing them too low, like near the floor or in a lower outlet, may lead to poor detection.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Alternate methods for how to test for carbon monoxide

If you suspect a carbon monoxide leak in your home or if you don’t currently have detectors installed, there are a couple of testing methods you could use to gain some peace of mind.

Portable carbon monoxide meter

A portable meter is a handy device to have on hand, particularly if you have multiple gas-powered appliances in your home. You can run this meter in any room in your house or even nearby gas appliances to determine if you have dangerous carbon monoxide levels.

Professional air quality test

If you want a more official comprehensive test run in your home, professional air quality testing companies will come to your home and test the levels of carbon monoxide in the air. They will also give you an analysis of the overall air quality of your home.

Your family’s safety is of the utmost importance. You have smoke alarms and other safety measures in place in your home, and you may even have a comprehensive security system in your home to protect those you love. Since carbon monoxide is virtually undetectable by human eyes and noses, you need to have detectors and testing routines in place to prevent exposure to this common but deadly gas. Keep your family safe and well by being proactive when it comes to carbon monoxide in your home.

Editors' Recommendations

Veronica Sparks
Veronica Sparks is a writer from Milwaukee, Wisconsin who loves writing about gardening, home décor, and DIY life. She’s…
How to prune a Dracaena marginata (dragon tree) so your plant stays thriving
Dragon tree getting too tall? Here's how to prune it so it flourishes
Dragon tree on a windowsill with copper watering can

Dracaena marginata, commonly called dragon trees, are not only great purifiers, but they're also super low-maintenance plants. To top it off, these guys are happy as both outdoor and indoor plants and they're incredibly easy to prune. Let's discuss some dragon tree pruning tips for a happy, thriving plant.

If you're a plant parent, you know that having indoor plants isn't just for aesthetics. Many plants have benefits like purifying your home's air and increasing the humidity during dry winter months. Plus, keeping plants in the home is a surefire way to boost your mood. But you have to keep those plants happy and healthy in order to keep your lush indoor garden thriving.

Read more
25 stellar staircase ideas to freshen up the look of your home
Not ready for an entire remodel? Update your staircase with one of these ideas
Young woman on stairs in a loft caring for potted plants.

If you want to change the interior of your house, you can change out throw pillows and invest in new furniture, but your stairs are a set thing, right? Not quite. You may not be able to move stairs or rip them out entirely, but you can get creative about your stair design.

Changing up your staircase can be one way to upgrade the look of your home and it isn't as difficult as you may think. If you aren’t sure how to accomplish this, we’ve got 25 ideas ranging from subtle to dramatic to help you figure it out. Keep reading for inspiration on how to update your staircase.

Read more
How to propagate lucky bamboo in 5 easy steps so you don’t have to buy it
Grow and propagate lucky bamboo at home for decoration or to give as gifts
Lucky bamboo in small pot on wooden table.

Lucky bamboo is an awesome and aesthetic indoor plant that's popular for its minimalistic, chic design and ease of care. If you already have one of these beauties and it's been growing strong, you can propagate it to create more plants. We'll walk you through the steps and methods for how to propagate lucky bamboo successfully so you can decorate your home with your own unique indoor garden or give them away to friends and family.

Since it's believed that these plants can bring their owners luck and good fortune, they're great to give as birthday presents or unique housewarming gifts. Check out how to grow your own below.

Read more