What is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is a natural compound. It is naturally found in the atmosphere and is produced in small amounts by living organisms. It is also produced from various fuels that are not completely burned. It is a gas that is formed through the union of carbon and oxygen, one atom each and has the chemical symbol CO.

Carbon Monoxide Detector

A Carbon monoxide detector is a device that will trigger an alarm when it senses an accumulation of carbon monoxide that is beyond the acceptable level. They are commonly based on a chemical reaction, electrochemical reaction, or semiconductor sensor.


What is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon Monoxide:

It  is a natural compound.  It is naturally found in the atmosphere and is produced in small amounts by living organisms.  It is also produced from various fuels that are not completely burned.   It is a gas that is formed through the union of carbon and oxygen, one atom each and has the chemical symbol CO.

carbon monoxide

Carbon monoxide has the following properties;

  • It is completely absent of color
  • It is without taste
  • You cannot smell it
  • It is lighter than air
  • As a gas, you cannot see it
  • It is produced in small amounts within living organisms
  • It is produced in large amounts by burning fossil fuels, including gas
  • It is very dangerous in high levels of exposure

Carbon Monoxide is known as ‘The Silent Killer’ and with the above properties, it is not hard to see why it gets this name and reputation, as people usually don’t know it exists until poisoning occurs, which may be too late.

Carbon Monoxide Detector

A Carbon monoxide detector is a device that will trigger an alarm when it senses an accumulation of carbon monoxide that is beyond the acceptable level.  They are commonly based on a chemical reaction, electrochemical reaction, or semiconductor sensor.

They are generally battery or mains power operated and come in many types (see below).  They are also available in a dual carbon monoxide/smoke detector alarm configuration.

More people are becoming aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide in homes and workplaces through awareness campaigns. The installation of carbon monoxide detectors is mandatory in many countries or states within countries.

Types of Carbon Monoxide Detector

There is an increasing demand for information regarding different carbon monoxide detector types, which is why this site has been developed.

Generally, the different types of carbon monoxide detectors are classified depending on the following factors:

  • Purpose
  • Sensitivity
  • Price
  • Sensor materials

In the market, two main types of carbon monoxide detector are available;

1. Conventional Carbon Monoxide Detector:

This is used to detect very high amounts of carbon monoxide in the air.  Detectors under this category are used to prevent acute poisoning. This type of carbon monoxide detector is produced and distributed in mass quantities, therefore are very inexpensive.

2. Low Level Carbon Monoxide Detector:

This detector is the most sensitive.  It reacts to very low levels of carbon monoxide in the air.   Alarms are more frequently triggered if this type of carbon monoxide detector is installed and it gives a very early warning of a particular problem.

The main purpose of this type of detector is for the risk long term exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide, which is can be as deadly as a one-time exposure to a high level. These units cannot be bought easily from stores and shops.  Ordering from manufacturers or through this site are the best ways of obtaining them and they are more expensive.

Carbon monoxide detector units are made with different types of internal material. These materials are called as “sensors” and will generally vary in sensitivity levels.

There are 3 commonly used sensors in the different types of carbon monoxide alarm systems.

  • Metal oxide: The tin oxide inside the detector will react with the carbon monoxide in the air and this is what triggers the alarm. This was the very first type of sensor used in early types of carbon monoxide detectors. It is commonly attached to the power source of the house or office.  Current types of carbon monoxide detector using metal oxide sensors have battery packs as backup in case of power interruption.
  • Biomimetic: This is the most common type carbon monoxide detector and is labeled as the most convenient to use.  It uses a gel coating sensor that changes color when contact is made with carbon monoxide.
  • Electrochemical: The most sensitive among the current types of carbon monoxide detectors is the one using electrochemical sensor. Even very low levels of carbon monoxide can be detected, therefore it is mostly preferred in industrial facilities and offices.

A carbon monoxide detector will also give you a very inexpensive peace of mind.

It’s a small price to pay for the safety of your loved ones and yourself.


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