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Protect and Detect: A Guide to Carbon Monoxide Detectors

‘Tis the season for gathering your loved ones around a roaring fire or toasting marshmallows over an open flame. While you’re making warm and cozy memories, remember that any time you burn a substance (wood, natural gas, propane, charcoal, etc.), you’re releasing carbon monoxide into the air. Outdoors, it’s not a problem — it will quickly dissipate — but if this dangerous gas builds up inside your home or garage, it can be hazardous and even deadly. Your Austin HVAC experts can’t overstate the importance of a good carbon monoxide detector to keep your family safe. Check out the details of some of our favorite models below.

Nest Protect

We’re already big fans of Nest’s programmable thermostat, and their CO detector is another great tool from this leader in home automation. It doubles as a smoke alarm and connects to your phone via an app. Regardless of your current location, you’ll be alerted if something dangerous is happening in your home. Nest Protect can be powered by batteries or hardwired into your electrical system. The only downside to this model is the pricetag. At around $99, it’s not cheap, but as with all Nest products you pay a premium price for advanced technology and elegant design.

First Alert CO615

If you don’t want all the bells and whistles (and the accompanying cost) of a home automation style monitor, we love this First Alert model. Installation couldn’t be easier, as you just plug it into any available outlet (it also has a backup battery, so it still works during a power outage). Its digital display alerts you to the level of CO (not just its presence), allowing you to compare different rooms to see where the gas is accumulating. It’s under $20 and uses the same electrochemical sensors (widely considered the industry gold standard) as the Nest model. The biggest complaint from consumers is that the battery compartment is poorly designed and difficult to close. (Note that First Alert also makes a higher-end model with home automation capabilities similar to Nest Protect, but their version is only compatible with Apple devices.)


This inexpensive detector, in the $20-25 range, is an Amazon best seller. Like our other two recs, it has an electrochemical sensor and a digital display to monitor CO levels. An 85 decibel alarm will sound if levels reach the danger zone. It’s battery-powered only, so there are no wires to mess with, but you’ll have to check the batteries every three months to ensure they’re still working.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Symptoms and Treatment

Carbon monoxide is often referred to as an invisible killer because it is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. Typical symptoms include dizziness, nausea and vomiting, headache, and confusion. You might feel like you have the flu. If you experience a CO leak in your home, go outside quickly for fresh air and call 911. Even if symptoms subside, you might have dangerous CO levels in your blood, so have everyone, including pets, checked by medical professionals.

Carbon monoxide can build up over days or even weeks before symptoms become noticeable. Your Austin HVAC specialists strongly recommend installing a CO detector today to keep your family safe and healthy this holiday season and beyond.

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