How Far Should Carbon Monoxide Detector Be From Furnace? Today, furnaces are mostly gas powered, which means that they naturally produce carbon monoxide, the colorless, tasteless, and odorless gas that can be extremely dangerous if left undetected. Carbon monoxide is one of the leading causes of accidental poisoning deaths so it’s important to stay protected.
Luckily, furnaces have ways of dealing with this natural byproduct. Most of the carbon monoxide is contained within the heat exchanger until it’s expelled through a flue pipe that runs from the furnace to the outside of the home. As long as the furnace is functioning properly, residents should be completely safe from carbon monoxide exposure. One of the problems, however, is that issues that lead to carbon monoxide leaks can be very subtle and unnoticeable at first, especially since the furnace is out of sight; this is where carbon monoxide detectors come in.
Keep in mind that your furnace isn’t the only potential threat and any home appliances that burn things for energy — anything that uses charcoal, gasoline, kerosene, natural gas, propane, or heating oil — creates the potential for carbon monoxide. Even wood-burning stoves can be a culprit.
If you have just bought a carbon monoxide detector, understand that placement is a very important part of the installation. Not only do you want the detectors to get accurate readings but you also want to make sure that they cover the entire home, which generally means that you will need more than one. There are also specific guidelines regarding height and distance away from gas-burning appliances.
How Far Should Carbon Monoxide Detector Be From Furnace?
In short, you should place your carbon monoxide detector at least 15 feet away from your furnace and this same rule applies to all other combustion appliances. The main thing that you are trying to avoid here is false alarms.
This is because combustion appliances, furnaces in particular, can give off extremely small amounts of carbon monoxide upon startup. These tiny bits are completely harmless and they will be gone shortly after they are released. While you will understand that there is no need to panic, the carbon monoxide detector doesn’t have this ability. All it knows is to sound an alarm when carbon monoxide is detected so placing your detector too close to your furnace could lead to a false alarm every time your system kicks on.
Not only would this be annoying but if you allow it to continue, you may grow used to the occurrence and fail to react properly to a real issue.
Where to Place Your Detector and Why Placement Matters
Installing your carbon monoxide detectors in the right place ensures that they work properly without giving off false alarms. It also ensures they are protected from accidental damage. Given how important their purpose is, it’s important that the detectors have the best chance of successfully warning you and your family of a carbon monoxide leak.
In addition to being slightly distanced from the furnace, the carbon monoxide detector can safely be installed near or on the ceiling.
Height is important because carbon monoxide is slightly lighter than air and, coming from a furnace, it’s warmer as well. Carbon monoxide has a tendency to diffuse evenly thoroughly the room but due to the temperature, it’s also going to rise, which means that the ceiling and the wall are the ideal spots for the detector. This way, the gas will simply rise up or spread out and into the detector, triggering the alarm as quickly as possible.
However, people have traditionally hung carbon monoxide detectors lower on the wall, in part because they had to be plugged into outlets. Many of them also have screens that display the CO levels. It is generally recommended that you place them at least five feet up on the wall, which is low enough to be visible and usually high enough to avoid tampering.
Other guidelines for placement include:
- Have at least one carbon monoxide detector on every floor of the home.
- Place at least one carbon monoxide detector near every sleeping area. Putting carbon monoxide detectors near the bedrooms protects people in their most vulnerable moments.
- Place a detector near your attached garage. Since running vehicles produce carbon monoxide, it will be good to have one near where you park.
- Follow manufacturers’ Generally, manufacturers will recommend a spot that has proven to be effective.
As far as the “don’ts” of carbon monoxide detector placement, make sure to, of course, avoid close proximity to combustion appliances. Also, avoid placing detectors in humid areas, near vents or windows, and in direct sunlight. It’s important that the detectors are free of obstructions and don’t get exposed to excessive dust, dirt, or moisture.
Avoiding CO Issues with Your Furnace
Aside from installing a carbon monoxide detector, there are a few things that you can do to make sure that your furnace doesn’t suffer any leaks. These include:
- Getting Regular Maintenance for Your System: As long as your furnace is in good condition, you shouldn’t have to worry about carbon monoxide. However, it’s not always obvious when you have an issue. It’s possible for furnaces to produce heat while also leaking carbon monoxide so getting regular maintenance on your system is an effective way to prevent issues. HVAC technicians can inspect the unit, looking for heat exchanger cracks and other issues that would cause a leak; in doing so, they can catch things early and keep your furnace in good health.
- Keep Your Air Filter Clean: Air in your furnace passes through a filter that collects dust and debris and then through a heat exchanger, which heats the air as it flows through. However, when there is no airflow because the filter is clogged, the heat exchanger has nothing to pass the heat on to so it just continues to get hot. Enough heat will cause the heat exchanger to crack, which could cause a release of carbon monoxide into the home. No matter what, air filters need to be changed regularly, often once a month or once every three months, but it’s especially important for this reason.
- Always Use Professionals: Poor installations could lead to carbon monoxide leaks. Blower motors that were installed incorrectly could lead to problems and flue pipes that don’t adequately vent carbon monoxide could be serious as well. When you are having a furnace installed, it’s always important to work with trained and certified professionals who know how to avoid these issues.
Integrating Furnace Detector with Others Around the House
Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms in the home are often interconnected so if one goes off, they all go off. This is especially valuable in large homes where people in one room may not be able to hear an alarm that sounds in a far-off room. In the event of a real emergency, this would also save time as everybody would hear the alarm at the same time. Without this interconnectivity, a single person would have to run around the home alerting everyone.
If you are installing a carbon monoxide detector near your furnace, you should make sure that it’s connected to the rest of the detectors around the house. If you just bought all of your detectors, they might already be configured to behave in this way. Either way, you can find out by testing the equipment.
Testing Your CO Detector
Carbon monoxide detectors, the same as fire alarms and other emergency systems, only go off when there is an emergency. So if you haven’t experienced an emergency, how can you be sure that your alarms actually work?
You can test your carbon monoxide detector every once in a while to make sure that it’s working properly and doing so is easy.
First, if your carbon monoxide detector is connected to your security system, you may want to notify your security providers before conducting a test. In this case, you might be able to place your system in “test mode” or a similar setting. This way, you avoid false alarms. To test the carbon monoxide detector, all you need to do is hold down the button that says “test” and you should hear two beeps sound. After you hear the two beeps, you can repeat this step but hold the button down until you hear four beeps, which means that the signal was sent to your monitoring station if you have one.
After about 15 minutes, you should go back and make sure that your carbon monoxide detectors switched back from test mode to regular mode.
Otherwise, if you have a simple plug-in device or a stand-alone carbon monoxide detector, you can read the instructions that came with your device. It’s recommended to test carbon monoxide detectors at least once a month but many people do it once a week. You should pay attention to the batteries and make sure that those get changed when they run low on juice.
Lastly, if you have just moved into a home, check the carbon monoxide detectors for suitable placement and proper functionality.