Approximately 50,000 people in the US visit the emergency room every year due to accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. At least 430 of these people die from this invisible killer. Installing a CO detector in your home is vital to keep you and your family safe. Knowing how to read your Carbon monoxide detector reading will help you know when it needs to sound an alarm

Should my carbon monoxide detector say 0?

The number on your CO detector refers to the concentration of carbon monoxide in parts per million – or PPM. The higher the reading, the more carbon monoxide is in your air. A normal reading is below 35 PPM. If your CO levels creep above this number, you should evacuate your home and call 911.

A basic CO detector has an electrochemical sensor that consists of thin wires of semiconductor tin dioxide on an insulating ceramic base. The sensor is heated to 400 degC to provide a current that increases as oxygen enters and decreases as carbon monoxide leaves. When the current changes, the sensor responds by sending an electrical signal that triggers the alarm.

Many home improvement stores offer standard detectors that use this technology and can be purchased inexpensively. Some more advanced models have digital display screens that show current and peak concentrations of carbon monoxide over time. These models generally cost somewhat more.

Regardless of what type of CO detector you have, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for maintaining your device. You should also regularly test your CO detector to make sure it’s working properly.