Where to Place Carbon Monoxide Detectors for Your Business

Currently, in the state of Virginia, carbon monoxide detectors are not required in commercial buildings by the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) or by any building codes.

Because there are so many closed rooms in a business, you would need a CO detector in every room to provide adequate protection. And the cost and effort this would require has prevented lawmakers and organizations from making this a legal requirement in businesses.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t install these life-saving devices throughout your building. In fact, even though they’re not legally required, CO detectors are routinely installed in:

  • Schools
  • Hotels
  • Motels

That said, if you’re interested in installing CO detectors throughout your building, we’re here to help with some installation/placement tips.

Let’s dive in.


Worried about the safety of your employees and property? Richmond Alarm offers inspections of commercial buildings. During an inspection, we’ll assess your building’s entire security system (including CO detectors) for proper placement, installation and operation.

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Tips for CO detector installation in commercial buildings

What rooms need a CO detector?

CO detectors should be installed in any room where there is a fuel-burning appliance, such as:

  • Fireplaces
  • Oil- or gas-burning furnaces
  • Boiler rooms
  • Gas-fired water heaters

CO detectors should also be placed in open-air garages. However, you should not install CO detectors in enclosed parking garages. This could repeatedly prompt false alarms.

At what height should I mount the detector?

Above all, when installing any CO detector, always follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions and recommendations for placement and mounting height.

Here’s why:

  • Some CO detectors are designed to mount on the ceiling and are more sensitive to CO levels. Therefore, you wouldn’t want to mount these detectors low to the ground. Otherwise you’d get an inaccurate reading.
  • Other CO detectors are designed to mount on the wall. Their sensitivity is calibrated to the manufacturer’s specific mounting height instructions.

Other safety tips:

  • Call your local fire department’s non-emergency number to find out what number to call if the CO detectors sound. Have this number easily accessible for all employees.
  • Test CO detectors at least once a month; replace them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • If the audible trouble signal sounds, check for low batteries. If the battery is low, replace it. If it still sounds, call the fire department.
  • If a CO detector sounds, immediately move to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door. Make sure everyone inside the building is accounted for. Call for help from a fresh air location and stay there until emergency personnel ensure the building is safe for occupancy.
  • During and after a snowstorm, make sure vents for any fuel-burning appliances are clear of snow build-up.
  • Gas or charcoal grills can produce CO — only use outside.

Symptoms of CO poisoning

The faster you are able to identify symptoms of CO poisoning, the higher the chance you have of saving employee lives.

To help you better understand what CO poisoning looks like, we’ve listed the typical symptoms that occur at various carbon monoxide levels.

Carbon monoxide concentration is measured in “ppm” (parts per million). For context, 100 PPM CO means that for every 999,900 molecules of air, there are 100 molecules of CO.

CO concentrationAssociated symptoms

50 ppm

No symptoms with 8 hours of exposure

200 ppm

Mild headache after 2-3 hours

400 ppm

Headache & nausea after 1-2 hours

800 ppm

Headache, nausea and dizziness after 45 min. Collapse and unconsciousness after 1 hour.

1,000 ppm

Loss of consciousness after 1 hour

1,600 ppm

Headache, nausea and dizziness after 20 min

3,200 ppm

Headache, nausea and dizziness after 5-10 min, unconsciousness after 30 min

6,400 ppm

Headache and dizziness after 1-2 min; unconsciousness and danger of death after 10-15 min

12,800 ppm

Immediate physiological effects, unconsciousness and danger of death after 1-3 min

Have questions on CO detector placement in commercial buildings?

Just contact our security experts at Richmond Alarm. We’ve helped hundreds of Virginia businesses keep their employees and property safe. We offer commercial security system inspections as well as professional monitoring and custom security system installation.

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