Installing a Carbon Monoxide Detector in an RV

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What You'll Need
9-volt or 12-volt carbon monoxide detector
Owner's guide and installation manual
Screws and screwdriver
Power drill

Having a carbon monoxide detector in an RV, installed either by the manufacturer or yourself, could prove to be a lifesaver on your next vacation. CO detectors designed for homes that run off an AC electrical source will only work while your RV is parked and connected to the electrical supply at the campsite.

Recreational vehicles contain several sources of carbon monoxide, including the generator, the exhaust pipe, the space heater, and the kitchen cooktop. A campfire, or even the exhaust from other RVs, can cause an increase in the carbon monoxide levels in your RV. Follow these directions to install a carbon monoxide (CO) detector in your RV for your family's safety.

Step 1 - Ascertain the Size of RV CO Detector You Need

For large RVs that sleep more than four people, purchase a 12-volt CO detector. For small RVs that sleep 2 to 3 people, a 9-volt CO detector will be adequate.

Step 2 - Choose the Best Location for Your Carbon Monoxide Detector

A central location about 5 feet from the floor, closest to where the majority of people will sleep, is the best location for a carbon monoxide detector. CO rises slowly as the air in the room warms, but can stay close to the floor in a cool, enclosed space.

Step 3 - How to Attach the CO Detector

Check the wall location to confirm you will not be drilling through wires or pipes. Drill 2 holes the size of the smallest screws and attach the CO detector. Put in the batteries and test it immediately so you know what the alarm sounds and looks like when activated.

Step 4 - Test the Carbon Monoxide Detector

Look over the CO detector to ensure its red warning light flashes every 30 seconds during normal operation. If the red warning light goes out, change the battery immediately. You can also test a digital readout CO detector with a cigarette or a slow burning wand of incense to confirm it is registering the presence of carbon monoxide. Hold the cigarette or incense up within 6 inches of the detector and check that the digital meter is registering the changed CO level.

Step 5 - If the Carbon Monoxide Detector Alarm Sounds

Open all the doors and windows of the RV at once to clear the air, and get everyone out of the vehicle. Check all the passengers for any symptoms such as dizziness or nausea, and if you have a digital readout on your CO detector, check it to see the level of carbon monoxide it has recorded.

Step 6 - Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention for Your RV

Do not use your RV's cooktop as a heater. It draws oxygen from the indoor air and can increase the CO level quickly. Open the rooftop vent or kitchen area window when cooking in your RV. Add a vertical exhaust pipe to your generator and vehicle exhaust to direct fumes upward, where they can dissipate. Ensure your water heater has the proper air supply.