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How to Buy a Carbon Monoxide Detector

by Leslie Pepper  

Every home should have carbon monoxide detectors. These potentially life-saving devices usually cost less than $50 each and are relatively easy to install or have installed.

There are two main types: battery-powered and electric-powered. Battery-powered units are easy to install and will work during a power outage, but you must remember to change the batteries every six months. (A good way to remember: Do it when you change your clocks each spring and fall.) Detectors that run on electricity can either plug into an existing power outlet or be hard-wired into the home’s electrical system by an electrician. Both types of electric-powered detectors come with a battery back-up in case the power goes out. A disadvantage of plug-in detectors is that electric outlets are typically located low on the wall, while the optimal placement for the alarm is on or near the ceiling, according to Consumer Reports.

Whichever type you choose, make sure it meets Standard UL 2034 of the Underwriters Laboratory. (The label will have this information.) Detectors should be replaced every five years.

Install detectors outside your bedrooms and in living areas, not in your basement or utility room. As mentioned above, the optimal placement is on or near the ceiling.