The Best Low Level Carbon Monoxide Detectors (Expert Analysis)

Carbon Monoxide Detector, CO Detector, Low Level CO Detector -

The Best Low Level Carbon Monoxide Detectors (Expert Analysis)

Carbon Monoxide is a deadly gas even at low levels, carbon monoxide can become a health risk. Low Level Carbon Monoxide detectors alarm occupants at 25ppm compared to generic CO alarms that trigger at 70ppm after 60 minutes. Obtaining a fast and early carbon monoxide alarm offers health benefits especially for the elderly, pregnant, and those with pre-conditions.

Pros

Cons

  • Low Level Carbon Monoxide detectors provide early warning to low ppm CO exposure.
  • Low Level CO alarms are becoming more affordable.
  • A plethora of Low Level Carbon Monoxide Detectors and available.
  • Alarming at 25ppm at 60 seconds.
  • Carbon Monoxide symptoms may be passed as "flu-like"
  • Sometimes it is difficult to track down the culprit carbon monoxide source.
  • Carbon Monoxide poisoning public awareness is still limited.
  • Carbon Monoxide is a silent killer.


What is considered Low Level of Carbon Monoxide?

Low Levels of carbon monoxide is typically considered anything less than 50ppm.  Depending on who you ask, "low level" definition of carbon monoxide may be different. Although it is termed "low-level" by no means is it safe.

Based on the Cleveland Clinic, The symptoms of low levels of CO exposure includes:

  • Mild headache.
  • Mild nausea.
  • Shortness of breath.

What is a Low Level CO Detector?

A low level carbon monoxide detector is a special CO detector that alarms much less than a generic CO detector.

A typical CO detector alarms at 70ppm after 60 minutes. The Forensics Detectors low level carbon monoxide detector will alarm at 25ppm after 60 seconds.

Who needs a Low Level CO Detector?

Early and low level alarming provides added protection to everybody. However, some groups are more sensitive to the toxic nature of carbon monoxide. These groups include seniors, the elderly, pregnant women, young children, and persons with medical conditions who may be more vulnerable to the adverse health effects carbon monoxide.

The Mayo Clinic says that seniors can more easily develop brain damage, and those with breathing problems or anemia are more likely to get sick.

Carbon monoxide is very dangerous for young developing brains, especially for unborn babies. According to a study by Miriam Delomenie “ ...exposure during pregnancy can cause severe damage, including intrauterine hypoxia, serious neurological damage, and even fetal death.”

What is the difference between a Low Level CO Detector and Normal CO Detector?

A typical carbon monoxide detector purchased from Costco or Home Depot is not a low level carbon monoxide detector. These CO alarms are made to comply with UL2034 and are not designed to measure compliance with OSHA CO exposure. 

For example, the FORENSICS low level CO detector triggers an audible alarm when CO detected > 25ppm. Such low-level CO alarming is closer to recommend exposure limits.

Is a Low Level CO Detector a replacement for a generic CO detector?

No, it is not. A low level CO detector is not a replacement for a generic UL2034 CO detector. Generic CO alarms are often mandatory in most homes.

What is the Best Low Level Carbon Monoxide Detector?

There are various low level carbon monoxide detectors on the market. The top brand and most popular products are here:

Do Carbon Monoxide Detectors Detect Low-Levels?

Yes, they do. They detect and alarm at lower carbon monoxide levels than a typical CO alarm. A typical CO detector alarms at 70ppm after 60 minutes. A low level carbon monoxide detector will alarm at 25ppm after 60 seconds.

Will a Low Level CO Detector alarm faster than a normal CO detector?

Yes it will. Typically, a low level carbon monoxide detector is programmed to alarm much faster than a generic CO detector. For example, an ordinary CO detector alarms at 70ppm after 60 minutes. A low level carbon monoxide detector will alarm at 25ppm after 60 seconds.

Do I Need a Carbon Monoxide Detector?

Yes, you do. At the minimum, you need a basic CO detector that complies with UL2034. They are affordable.

Generic CO alarms are often mandatory in most homes. Check with your local city code and or state legislation. The majority of US states have now mandated CO detectors. 

Which Carbon Monoxide Concentration Levels are Important? 

No standards for CO have been agreed upon for indoor air within your home. It can get confusing since various agencies, departments, and organizations have different recommended exposure levels.

There are, however some guidelines that can be extrapolated for safety. Here is a table that summarized the carbon monoxide exposure limits:

Agency

Limits

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION (WHO)

9ppm average over 8 hours

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (EPA)

9ppm average over 8 hours

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)

9ppm average over 8 hours

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

35ppm average over 10 hours

200ppm ceiling value

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

50ppm average over 8 hours

American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH)

25ppm average over 8 hours

CO Detector Alarming Protocol
UL2034 (USA)

>70ppm (60 to 240 minutes)

>200ppm (10 to 50 minutes)

>400ppm (4 to15 minutes)

CO Detector Alarming Protocol
EN 50291:2001 (Europe)

>50ppm (60 to 90 minutes)
>100ppm (10 to 40 minutes)
>300ppm (3 minutes)

Forensics Low Level Carbon Monoxide Detector

>25ppm (1 minute)

 

How Sensitive is a Carbon Monoxide Alarm?

Generic CO Detectors purchased from a store alarm at 70ppm. Low level CO detectors alarm at 25ppm (Forensics Detectors).

When do CO Detectors Alarm?

Nearly all carbon monoxide detectors mandated by city, county, or state jurisdictions require a compliant CO detector, which means it must comply with the UL2034. Nearly all CO detectors sold at Home Depot, Lowes, Costco and other large retail stores are UL2034 compliant.

The UL2034 standard has specific requirements regarding how the CO detector alarms and at what time and at what CO concentration. For example, the alarming protocol for a typical UL2034 carbon monoxide detector will audibly alarm when the CO concentration is:

  • >70ppm for 60 to 240 minutes

  • >200ppm for 10 to 50 minutes

  • >400ppm for 4 to 15 minutes

Do CO Alarms protect from recommend OSHA exposure limits?

No, they do not. A normal CO Detector that is UL2034 compliant has the following warning:

Warning: This product is intended for use in ordinary indoor locations of family living units. It is not designed to measure compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) commercial or industrial standards. Individuals with medical problems may consider using warning devices which provide audible and visual warnings for carbon monoxide concentrations under 30 ppm.

co detector from costco

Should I bring my Low Level Carbon Monoxide Detector when traveling?

Yes you should. Having a working carbon monoxide detector or a travel CO detector is a wise choice when traveling. Cars can leak carbon monoxide into the cabin. Planes can also leak carbon monoxide into the cabin. Some hotels may have CO detectors installed, and some may not. It often happens if they are installed, they may have dead batteries or are expired. Be on the safe side. Always travel with a CO detector you know is operational to catch any problem.

There are many incidents every year of hotels being evacuated due to carbon monoxide. For hotel carbon monoxide leaks, leaks typically arise from large BTU appliances, such as a pool heater spilling carbon monoxide or a large boiler. Be safe when traveling and keep a CO detector with you. 

carbon monoxide hotel evacuation alarm monitor

How do I take care of my Low Level Carbon Monoxide Detector?

  • Store your low level CO detector at normal room temperature - about 70F with 50%RH (well within operating specifications).

  • Store it away from electromagnetic or magnetic sources such as phones.

  • Store it in a clean environment where no dust or particles exist.

  • Store is away from any exhaust gas, concentrated vapors, harsh chemicals.

  • Clean the casing of your detector with a damp cloth.

  • Store it in a stable place where there are no vibrations or continuous shaking.

What is the difference between CO and CO2 detectors?

Carbon Monoxide detectors do not detector carbon dioxide gas. And the opposite is true. Carbon dioxide monitors do not detect carbon monoxide gas. CO and CO2 are completely different gases and require specific detectors.

Should a carbon monoxide detector read zero?

Yes, it should read zero in the fresh air. When a CO detector reads zero, it means there is no carbon monoxide being detected. Technically, however this may not be absolutely true. For example, the Kiddie Carbon Monoxide Detector has a minimum reading of 30ppm. So any carbon monoxide that exists below 30ppm will show on display as 0ppm. 

How do you test a low level carbon monoxide detector?

To test your carbon monoxide detector see: "How do I test my Carbon Monoxide Detector?

To summarize, there are three ways:

  • Spray onto the detector carbon monoxide test gas, sometimes called bump gas.
  • Try the wood stick method. It is easy to try it at home with no special equipment. See here.
  • Press the TEST button on your CO detector - read your instruction manual.

Are Low Level CO Detectors more expensive than normal CO Detectors?

Yes, they are. Low level CO Detectors are made up of the same components that include an electrochemical CO sensor, electronics and display hardware. Software algorithms are different. Because of lower production quantities and more premium CO sensors, the cost price of these products tends to be more expensive than generic carbon monoxide alarms manufactured in mass quantities. 

Why are CO Detectors not made to also alarm at lower levels?

The majority of CO detectors are not low level CO detectors. Generic UL2034 carbon monoxide detectors are designed and programmed to alarm to prevent death. The challenge is in balancing safety with false alarms that may inundate first responders and local fire departments.

Who needs a Low Level Carbon Monoxide Detector?

Early and low level alarming provides added protection to seniors, the elderly, pregnant women, young children, and persons with medical conditions who may be more vulnerable to the adverse health effects of carbon monoxide.

How do I take care of my Low Level Carbon Monoxide Detector?

Store your low level carbon monoxide detector at normal room temperature - about 70F with 50%RH (well within operating specifications).

  • Store it away from electromagnetic or magnetic sources such as phones.

  • Store it in a clean environment where no dust or particles exist.

  • Store it away from any exhaust gas, concentrated vapors, harsh chemicals.

  • Clean the casing of your detector with a damp cloth.

  • Store it in a stable place where there are no vibrations or continuous shaking.

For more information on where to place it and other more advanced instructions, see our blog article here.

Final Words

A low level carbon monoxide detector is a wise supplement to ensure protection at low levels of carbon monoxide that can create and trigger health problems.  Low level CO detectors are now available for less than $100. Obtaining a fast and early carbon monoxide alarm offers health benefits, especially for the elderly and those with pre-conditions.

About The Author

Dr. Koz is the President of FORENSICS DETECTORS where the company operates from the scenic Palos Verdes Peninsula in Los Angeles, California. He is a subject matter expert on gas sensor technology, gas detectors, gas meters, and gas analyzers. He has been designing, building, manufacturing, and testing toxic gas detection systems for over 20 years.

gas detector expert

Every day is a blessing for Dr. Koz. He loves to help customers solve their unique problems. Dr. Koz also loves spending time with his wife and his three children going to the beach, grilling burgers and having a cold beer. 

Read more about Forensics Detectors here.

Email:  drkoz@forensicsdetectors.com
Phone: +1 424-341-3886


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