Although carbon monoxide poisoning is avoidable, it still kills hundreds of Americans annually. Each year, the CDC says at least 430 people in the United States are killed by carbon monoxide. And another approximately 50,000 go to the emergency department due to exposure.

As heating season begins, the likelihood of being exposed to carbon monoxide goes up. So, we conducted a Google Survey in September 2022 to learn more about how Colorado residents keep themselves safe from carbon monoxide. We surveyed 100 male and female Coloradans, ages 18-65+.

What Our Survey Found

While the Coloradans we interviewed understand carbon monoxide is a dangerous gas, many didn’t have enough carbon monoxide detectors in their home or test them frequently enough.

  • Inadequate carbon monoxide detectors
  • Few use smart carbon monoxide detectors
  • Most don’t test detectors frequently enough

32% Only Have One Carbon Monoxide Detector

Of those interviewed, 70% said they own their home and use a gas furnace to heat it. The rest who rent said they used another heat source.

Although not everyone we surveyed has a gas furnace, the majority knew what carbon monoxide is. They described it as:

  • Poison gas
  • A heating byproduct
  • Deadly/dangerous gas

A furnace’s combustion process is what creates carbon monoxide. When a furnace is working correctly, the gas is trapped within the heat exchanger and safely ventilated outside through flue pipes. If the heat exchanger is broken or flue pipes are obstructed, the gas can spill back into your home.

You might think that this issue won’t happen to you. But 3% of the Coloradans we interviewed said they’ve had a carbon monoxide problem in their home.

What makes this gas so hazardous if the fact there’s no carbon monoxide smell. And you can’t see it, so the only way to find out it’s there is with a detector.

Of the Coloradans we surveyed, 88% said they use a carbon monoxide detector in their home. But more than two-thirds of them don’t have the recommended number.

Here’s what our survey revealed:

  • One detector—32%
  • Two detectors—28%
  • Three detectors—15%
  • Four or more detectors—13%

The International Association of Fire Chiefs recommends installing a detector:

  • On each floor
  • In the basement, if you have one
  • Within 10 feet of each bedroom door
  • Near or over an attached garage, if you have one

When you’re doing carbon monoxide detector placement, the EPA recommends installing them at least 5 feet above the floor, or on the ceiling.

You may be wondering, is carbon monoxide heavier than air? A common myth is that carbon monoxide stays close to the floor, but it’s slightly lighter than air. And the EPA says it often gets swept up with warm, rising air.

If carbon monoxide builds up your home, you could suffer from flu-like symptoms, like headaches, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. Extended exposure to heavy concentrations can be fatal. That’s why it’s so important to have a carbon monoxide detector in your home in case you mistake signs of carbon monoxide poisoning for another illness.

Plug-In and Battery-Powered Detectors Are Most Popular

There are a lot of different kinds of carbon monoxide detectors to choose from. We allowed multiple answers for this question, but of the Coloradans we surveyed:

  • 22% use a plug-in carbon monoxide detector
  • 19% have a battery-powered carbon monoxide detector
  • 29% use a combined smoke and carbon monoxide detector
  • 2% use a smart carbon monoxide detector, such as the Google Nest Protect
  • 16% didn’t know what type they have

Although using a battery-powered or plug-in carbon monoxide detector is most popular, smart carbon monoxide detectors are becoming the best carbon monoxide detector to secure your home.

While they’re generally more expensive, they offer many convenient features for monitoring your home, like smoke detection and compatibility with other smart home products.

Here are a few other advantages to choosing one:

  • There aren’t any annoying sirens, since it will let you know there’s a problem with a voice or phone notification.
  • You won’t have to guess where the problem is, because your detector will tell you where it is, like your basement.
  • You can silence it with a fast tap of your phone.
  • There won’t be any irritating chirps late at night since the detector tests its sensors and batteries independently. Then, it warns you through phone notifications.

Monthly? Yearly? 82% Don’t Test Their Detectors Frequently Enough

If you’re not using a smart detector, it’s important to regularly test it and replace its batteries.

Of the Coloradans we surveyed:

  • 5% test monthly, as recommended by manufacturers
  • 23% test every six months
  • 32% test every year
  • 27% have never tested it

Carbon Monoxide Detectors Expire, but 36% Didn’t Know That

Like smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors should be replaced regularly. It depends on what type you use, but most work for 5–7 years. Smart detectors can last up to 10 years.

Of the people we surveyed, 36% said they didn’t know their detector expires. Most detectors will let you know they’re nearing the end of their life span with five beeps every minute or so.

Most Know What to Do if Carbon Monoxide Detector Sounds

Every minute is important when carbon monoxide builds up in an enclosed space like your home. When your detector senses dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, it will alert you through a sequence of four noisy beeps. You should leave your home right away for fresh air and dial 911.

Most of the people who participated in our survey knew what to do if their carbon monoxide detector goes off. Of the Coloradans we interviewed, the majority said they would leave and call 911.

Sometimes detectors will beep when they require batteries or are wearing out. If you’re noticing a chirp about every minute, try exchanging the batteries. Most manufacturers suggest replacing them every month in battery-powered models. Or every six months if they’re hardwired or plugged into a wall.