Is carbon monoxide heavier or lighter than air? The correct answer to this question is very critical because when it comes to installing a carbon monoxide alarm in your house, the positioning of the alarm is crucial. If you place the alarm too high up, it might not get an accurate reading of the carbon monoxide levels in your house. On the other hand, if you place it too close to the ground, the same thing could happen. Both of these are extremely problematic situations as carbon monoxide is a notoriously deadly gas. In fact, one of the biggest dangers of carbon monoxide is that it is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. Without a properly placed detector, you might not realize that there is a gas leak in your house until it is too late. However, this also begs the question: where do you put a carbon monoxide alarm?
The placement of a carbon monoxide alarm depends on how heavy carbon monoxide is compared to the air around it. If it is heavier than air, it will stay closer to the ground. If it is lighter than air, it will rise to the ceiling before filling the entire room. Despite the common belief that carbon monoxide is heavier than air, the truth of the matter is that it is actually just slightly lighter than air. To be more specific, the air around you typically has an average molar mass of 28.8. Carbon monoxide has a molar mass of 28.0, making it just barely lighter than air. This means that carbon monoxide alarms are far more effective when they are placed above the ground, closer to the ceiling. The idea that carbon monoxide is heavier than air is not only wrong but it can have problematic effects when people place their carbon monoxide detectors too close to the floor.
One of the reasons why this myth about the positioning of carbon monoxide was brought about is because there are some detectors that have to be plugged into an outlet in order to work. This automatically means that your carbon monoxide detector is going to be closer to the ground. If enough people choose to place their detectors at this height, it can quickly become popular belief that this is the best location for your carbon monoxide detector. With that being said, there have been a few studies performed that prove that carbon monoxide is actually lighter than air, although not by much. In fact, these studies actually show that instead of pooling at the floor or layering the ceiling, carbon monoxide will fill out a room evenly. Through this study, it was shown that it took a little bit longer for carbon monoxide to infuse with the air in the room if the leak comes from the top, which goes to show that carbon monoxide is definitely not heavier than air.
What Exactly Is Carbon Monoxide and What Makes it Deadly?
Some people might be wondering what exactly carbon monoxide is and why it is so important to have an alarm (or several) in your house for it. Carbon monoxide is a type of gas that has no scent, taste, or color to it, meaning that only a detector will be able to know if there is a high amount of carbon monoxide in a room. As for the molecular makeup of carbon monoxide, it consists of one carbon atom and one oxygen atom, giving it the abbreviated name of CO. The reason why carbon monoxide is so dangerous is that it will actually bind to the hemoglobin in your blood. Your hemoglobin is what basically transports oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. It’s actually what makes oxygenated blood red in color. Because carbon monoxide will bind to your hemoglobin (creating a compound known as carboxyhemoglobin), this restricts the amount of oxygen that gets to the rest of your body. This is what makes carbon monoxide so deadly. Instead of poisoning you as any other type of toxin would, carbon monoxide causes asphyxiation, or the deprivation of oxygen to your organs. This can result in anything from nausea and dizziness to unconsciousness, coma, and even death. The odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas is often called the “silent killer” due to the way it can take lives if people do not have carbon monoxide detectors properly placed in their homes.
Where Do You Put Carbon Monoxide Detectors?
Since carbon monoxide is such a deadly, troublesome gas, it is all the more important that you properly place your carbon monoxide detectors where they need to be. Of course, different manufacturers are going to have different recommendations as to where you should put the detector. This is one of the things you will need to take into account when you are first installing your carbon monoxide detector. Secondly, you will also need to consider the best places that are easily accessible but are not necessarily at the floor or ceiling. For instance, many manufacturers say that you should place the carbon monoxide detector around five feet from the ground. This is considered an idea height for a typical room as it puts the detector at the middle of the wall.
There are also a few things to consider when it comes to which rooms you put the carbon monoxide detectors in. Now that you know that carbon monoxide is heavier than air, there’s a good chance that you won’t be sticking a detector into an outlet anymore. Generally, there should be at least one carbon monoxide detector on each floor of your house. This ensures that there is adequate protection all throughout the house. The National Fire Protection Agency suggests that you should also consider placing the carbon monoxide detector near the areas where people sleep. On the off-chance that a gas leak happens during the middle of the night, you will want to be sure that you wake up in time to get everyone out of the house. Putting a carbon monoxide detector in a garage near combustion appliances (such as furnaces and water heaters) is often a good idea as well since these appliances can produce quite a bit of carbon monoxide and can produce far more if something goes wrong. These are just a few of the things to consider when you are searching for a place to put your new carbon monoxide detector now that you know that carbon monoxide is lighter than air.
You also need to consider which types of appliances produce a normal, harmless amount of carbon monoxide. In fact, there are actually several household appliances that do produce minimal amounts of carbon monoxide. If you put a carbon monoxide detector too close to these locations, it could easily go off as a false alarm. Most fuel-burning appliances will emit some amount of carbon monoxide when they start up. This includes stoves and cars, among other things. You shouldn’t place a carbon monoxide detector above or beside these appliances for this reason. In fact, you should keep your detector around 15 feet away from such appliances. At the same time, you should keep your carbon monoxide detector away from the bathroom or other humid areas as well. Similarly, areas that will experience high temperatures, such as those in direct sunlight, and areas that will have fast-moving air, such as those near air conditioners and vents, are not good places for a carbon monoxide detector as these issues can alter the readings. These are all important things to note in addition to the fact that you shouldn’t place your detector next to the ground or right next to the ceiling.
What Do You Need to Remember?
Carbon monoxide is a silent killer that takes around 500 lives in the United States annually. Hundreds more are injured or affected by carbon monoxide poisoning each year as well. Carbon monoxide is a gas that can take away your body’s ability to deliver oxygen to your organs, resulting in asphyxiation. Carbon monoxide is produced naturally and harmlessly by a number of home appliances. While this is pretty typical, it is also important to place a carbon monoxide detector near these areas in case the worst happens. In addition to this, you should place carbon monoxide detectors on each floor of the house with at least one of them within 10 feet of where people sleep. At the same time, there are a few places where you shouldn’t place a carbon monoxide detector as the readings will not be accurate. These places include within 15 feet of heating/cooking appliances and humid areas, within five feet of ovens and household chemicals, areas that are not in direct sunlight, and areas that will not have turbulent air. This will not only ensure that the carbon monoxide detector has accurate readings but it will also increase the chances that your family will be properly notified in time if there is a gas leak in the house.
With all this being said, there is one more major thing that you need to note. Contrary to popular thought, carbon monoxide is actually lighter than air, although slightly so. This means that it is best to place your carbon monoxide detectors in the middle of your walls rather than at the ceiling or the floor. Alongside what the manufacturer of your carbon dioxide monitor says, you should consider placing your new detector about five feet above the ground to ensure that it will get the most accurate readings possible.