Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detector For RV – Do I Need One?

Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detector For RV – Do I Need One?For every RV owner, safety is a key issue. As a result, many of you intending, existing and new owners are curious to know the answers to many of the safety questions. One of the question most of you do ask is if it is necessary to have a carbon monoxide detector installed in your RV. Some of you may have been told it is not important to have one installed as long as you avoid certain appliances or follow certain rules. Regardless, after our extensive research, we are glad to say we have the answer to your question.

Every RV needs to have CO detectors and most come with them pre-installed. Carbon monoxide, also known as the silent killer, is an invisible, odorless, and deadly gas. It is produced from a partial combustion of solid, liquid and gaseous fuels. Many of the fuels that produce carbon monoxide can be found in your RV appliances. Due to the fact that there is no way you can detect CO on your own, having a detector installed in your camper is the only way you can protect yourself from CO poisoning.

There is more to know about the importance of having a CO detector in your RV. By reading further, you will understand better.

How To Identify And Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

Reaction to CO poisoning differs in people depending on their age, health level and condition. Children, old people, and pregnant women, for instance, are likely to succumb to the poisoning than other people. Also, people with heart diseases and asthma are also likelier to suffer from CO poisoning faster than the average person.

A person sleeping cannot suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms because it is near impossible to detect when asleep. On the other hand, an awake person can. However, CO poisoning symptoms are usually mistaken for that of flu because of the similarity between them. The symptom displayed by victims of CO poisoning are; headache, inability to think straight, weakness, nausea, stomach upset, vomiting and chest pain. People exposed for too long could suffer from muscle spasms, memory loss, tachycardia and ultimately, death.

In order to remain safe, there are many things you can do to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in your RV such as;

  • Opening your kitchen window and vent when cooking in your RV.
  • Following the safety instructions on the warning labels on your appliances.
  • Getting additional exhaust pipe in order to direct the fumes from your generator and vehicle away from your RV.
  • Checking your detector every morning before you start your RV and every evening before you go to sleep.
  • Having your exhaust system, generator, kitchen appliances, and electrical devices checked and serviced at regular intervals.
  • Inspecting your exhaust systems before and after use.
  • Changing your detector’s battery annually.
  • Not using your burner or stove to heat your RV
  • Replacing your RV CO detector every five years.
  • Avoid staying within close proximity of another RV’s exhaust.

If your detector alarm goes off, you should immediately open all the windows and doors in the camper. Get everyone out and check them from symptoms. Next,  you call a professional to look for the problem and fix it. Do not attempt to go back in to do anything until the problem is discovered and fixed.

How to Choose and Install a Carbon Monoxide Detector in Your RV

Knowing you need detector in your RV is only one part of the solution. You also need to know how you can select the right one. Although some of today’s RVs come with CO detectors, learning how to choose and install a detector is necessary. This is in case your camper does not have one or if you need to replace an old one. The steps to take when installing a detector on your camper are;

Choosing The Right Detector

The first thing to consider is the type of detector to use. Not all CO detectors are fit for campers. Only buy detectors fit for RV. Make sure the detectors you buy have been tested and approved by a recognized safety organization because when it comes to safety, there should be no compromise on quality.

The type of detector we would advise you go for is one with alarm. One that is not only reliable but will also last long.  The detectors we will recommend for you based on the above criteria are;

Kidde Carbon Monoxide Detector

This battery-operated device with a digital display has an alarm that will alert you in the case of any gas leak.

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First Alert Carbon Monoxide Detector

This detector, also with an alarm, uses an alkaline battery. It is the perfect fit for your RVs that are constantly on the road.

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MTI Industry Dual Alarm

If you are looking for a device that can detect both carbon monoxide and propane then this is for you. With its 12V power, it will last long.

Click here to see more on Amazon

Choose The Right Location

Another important decision to make when installing a detector is choosing the right spot to put it. It should be placed halfway up the room because CO spreads fast. More importantly, it should be positioned in the center of your room not far from your sleeping area. Also, it should not be installed within the distance of 15 – 20 feet from gas-powered devices. Note that you can install more than one detector as a safer measure.

Attaching The Detector

Check the walls you’re attaching your detector before screwing it in. This is to avoid damaging the wires or pipes that may be lined up behind the walls.

Test The Detector

After installing the detector, put the battery in. Ensure it is flashing the warning light. You can test the detector with a special tester spray. This is to confirm it can register of the presence of carbon monoxide. The tester spray we recommend you use is;

SDI Carbon Monoxide Detector Tester

This UL certified tester is safe for use. It will let you know if your detector is functioning correctly. It also lasts long.

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What Would Cause Carbon Monoxide In A Camper?

Recreational Vehicles have multiple sources of carbon monoxide. There are; the camper exhaust pipe, the generator exhaust, the heater, refrigerator, oven, and L-P burning stove. They are the likely cause of CO in a camper. Once faulty, these appliances could be dangerous as they might start emitting the poisonous gas. Outside the RV, at campsites, your neighbor’s RV exhaust pipes, grills, and campfires are also likely causes of an increase in the level of CO in campers.

Where Should A Carbon Monoxide Detector Be Placed In An RV?

One problem many RV owners face is where to install their carbon monoxide detector. Should it be placed in the kitchen near the appliances? Should it be placed near the floor as many people suggest? Well, worry no more as we have the answer to this question.

First, the fact that carbon monoxide should be placed on lower walls is based on a false myth that it is heavier than air. The truth is carbon monoxide is neither heavy or lighter than air. Many of the sources of CO generates heat and since heated air rises fast in a cool environment, CO spreads fast in a room. Therefore, your detector should be placed halfway up the room – preferably at eye level. This will enable easy detection, facilitate reading it (if it has a display function) as well as keep it out of the reach of children.

Some detectors do come with mounting and placing instructions. In cases like that, you should follow these instructions.

According to the 2015 National Fire Protection Association guide, carbon monoxide detectors should be placed in the center of the room, not far from the sleeping area. Another place you can place your detector in is near the kitchen (15 – 20 meters away from your appliances because they emit CO upon startup). However, as earlier suggested, there is nothing stopping you from having multiple detectors installed in all these different places in your camper. In fact, you could connect them together so when one detects a gas leak, they all beep.

For the exact instructions on where to place the detector, always follow the manufacturer's brochure.

Just like there are places you can put your detector, there are places where your carbon monoxide detectors should NOT be installed in. These places include;

  • Near your fuel-burning appliances, as these appliances usually emit a small amount of carbon monoxide when turned on thereby causing faint detection.
  • Moist areas like the bathroom.
  • Near windows, in dark corners, behind curtains, cabinets and any other place that can tamper with its performance.
  • In sunlight because it will cause it to overheat.

How Do I know If My Carbon Monoxide Detector Is Bad?

We have CO detectors in our RVs to protect us from poisoning. However, a bad detector is just as good as no detector. So how do you know if your CO detector is bad?


The warning indicator is the first tell-tale of a malfunctioning CO indicator. If it is not blinking or it is blinking at irregular intervals, you should check and change the battery. However, if after the change it remains the same, you should replace your detector.

The Test Button

Many CO detectors come with test buttons. It is usually located near the indicator. If you press this button and your detector is functioning, the alarm will sound for about 5 seconds. However, if it is faulty, it will not give any sound. If this happens, change the battery.

This routine does not test the actual detector, instead, it is done to assess if the battery and the circuitry are still functioning.

To make your detector last long you should;

  • Test your detector regularly so you can know early when and if it is faulty. If possible, you should do this monthly.
  • Regularly clean your detector so that you can clean the dust and dirt particles that may affect its performance.
  • The U. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (USCPS) suggests you change your battery annually. Hence you should check your CO frequently for low battery.

Why Is My Carbon Monoxide Detector Beeping In My RV?

There are several reasons why your carbon monoxide beep might go off. Some of the most common reasons are:

Low Battery

Many of today's detectors let out occasional soft beeps when their battery is low. This beep will be heard every 30 seconds or so. Whenever such happens, you should replace the battery quickly. You can prevent this by frequently checking and changing the battery.

CO Detection

Another reason why your CO detector let out constant beep is when it detects CO in the room. If this is the case, you should follow the evacuation protocol. However, there are other times when your detector beeps. Some times, it is as a result of been placed too close to appliances.  To remedy it, you can place your detector about 20 feet away from them. Another reason is if your detector is faulty. You can know this by checking the indicator lights.

Substandard Equipment

Substandard detectors tend to detect low-level CO. Hence, they let out constant beeps. To avoid this, go for only reliable CO detectors.

Safety First

Yearly, many campers die as a result of CO poisoning. Having a functional carbon monoxide detector installed in every RVs might go a long way in saving your life from CO poisoning. Aside from having a detector, knowing how to maintain it as well as knowing what to do in the case of poisoning will help reduce the deaths.

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  1. I used this MTI Industries’ 35-742-BL Dual RV LP/CO Alarm and it’s an excellent choice. I can install easily.  This device can detect both gas leaks and CO gas at the same time. It has a plug-in 12V power source, so I won’t ever need to replace any dead batteries. Besides that, this product can withstand the rugged environment of an RV and function at any temperature between 40 F and 158 F. Therefore, I feel fine when I travel.

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