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RV Carbon Monoxide Detectors

While owning an RV offers countless opportunities to make wonderful memories and see the beauty of our country, it also requires routine checks and maintenance. Unlike a fire detector, a carbon monoxide detector can save your life by letting you know there are harmful toxins in the air that you’re breathing. Learn everything you need to know about RV carbon monoxide detectors and why they're important to have and maintain in your RV!

Does My RV Have a Carbon Monoxide Detector?

Most RV’s come with three important things: a fire detector, a fire extinguisher, and a carbon monoxide detector. If you’re wondering if your RV is equipped with them, take a minute and check. If your RV only has the fire detector and fire extinguisher and no carbon monoxide detector, it’s very important to you and your family that you get one. Go to your local hardware store or home improvement store and you'll see many to choose from. When purchasing a carbon monoxide detector, be sure to buy the right kind according to what type of RV you have. For example, if your RV sleeps 4 or more people, purchase a 12-volt detector. For smaller RVs that sleep 2-3 people, a 9-volt detector will suffice.


Placement of your carbon monoxide detector is key. If you are installing one into your RV, make sure it is in a central location. A good spot is about 5 feet from the floor, as carbon monoxide rises as air warms up, but it can stay close to the ground in a cool and enclosed space. Make sure the detector is close to where most everyone sleeps.

Batteries Or Wired?

If you already have a carbon monoxide detector in your RV, you’ll want to check and see if it runs on batteries or if it’s wired into your RV’s battery. If your detector requires batteries, you will want to make a note when new batteries were put in and keep up on replacing batteries. It is very important to keep fresh batteries in your detector as it could save your life. If your detector is wired into your RV battery, keep an eye on that as well and do frequent carbon monoxide tests to keep it up to par.

How To Test Your Detector

Testing your RV carbon monoxide detector is simple. Go to the detector and make sure the red warning light flashes every 30 seconds. If it does, you're all set. If the red light goes out, change the batteries immediately. To check if the sensor is working, you can burn a cigarette or an incense wand and see if your detector picks up the presence of carbon monoxide. Make sure to hold whatever is burning at least 6 inches from the detector and see if the digital meter acknowledges the changes in the carbon monoxide levels.

What To Do If The Alarm Goes Off

If your carbon monoxide alarm goes off, act quickly! Open the doors and windows and have everyone exit the RV. Check each person for carbon monoxide symptoms. Symptoms include: dizziness, nausea, slight headaches, weakness, shortness of breath, confusion, blurred vision, or loss of consciousness. Warning signs of carbon monoxide poisoning are subtle and can be life threatening. If symptoms are serious, get into fresh air and seek medical attention right away! After checking everyone, look at your detector (if digital) and see what the carbon monoxide reading level is and record it. Shut down your generator or the source of where the carbon monoxide came from and do not turn it on until it is inspected.

Preventing Carbon Monoxide

Don’t use your RV oven or stove as a heater. When cooking in your RV, make sure a window or vent is open to create airflow (yes, open it even when it’s cold outside). Make sure your water heater has the proper amount of air supply reaching it. Adding an extra vertical exhaust pipe will direct the fumes, coming from your generator and vehicle, upwards to allow them to dissipate. When parking your RV, make sure it isn’t close to the following: snow mounds, tall grass, buildings, or other objects that will prevent proper fume dissipation. Do not sleep with the generator on. When you run your generator, crack a window or vent to help air flow. Do not run your generator if any unusual noises come from it or if your exhaust system is damaged in any way. Inspect all windows, floors, and openings and seal them to prevent unwanted fumes from leaking in.

Annual RV Maintenance

Doing regular RV checkups and servicing will help prevent the chances of carbon monoxide mishaps. As long as you keep up to date on your RV maintenance and carbon monoxide detector checks, the chances of dealing with carbon monoxide poisoning is low.

There are countless reasons to go RVing, from seeing our beautiful national parks to spending quality time with family and friends. But while enjoying the freedom of the open road, you also need to be aware of how carbon monoxide can come about and how you can protect yourself from it! Regularly maintain your RV carbon monoxide detector to keep you and your family safe!

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