Will a Carbon Monoxide Detector Detect a Gas Leak?

It’s common for homes to use natural gas or propane gas for their in-home appliances and heating. Being safe in our homes is essential, and many will ask, “Will a carbon monoxide detector detect a gas leak?”

Carbon monoxide (CO) detectors do not detect other types of gas leaks such as propane and natural gas. When a carbon monoxide detector detects even minute amounts of CO, it will alert the family before the concentrations reach lethal levels. Many CO detectors aren’t designed to pick up natural gas or propane gas.

Carbon monoxide detector

Will a Carbon Monoxide Detector Detect Natural Gas?

There are detectors designed particularly to find the presence of propane, natural gas, and carbon monoxide, protecting against all three and triggering an alert when found.

Make sure the detector you select is capable of detecting propane gas, natural gas, and carbon monoxide. If unsure, it’s a good bet that you’ll need different detectors for each.

Many of these three-in-one detectors need to plug into an electrical outlet and have a battery backup.

What Is Natural Gas?

According to the EIA, natural gas is a fossil fuel that was created deep inside the earth’s crust and includes a wide variety of molecules. Methane, a molecule having one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms, makes up the majority of natural gas.

There are also small amounts of natural gas liquids and non-hydrocarbon gases in natural gas, like carbon dioxide and water vapor. Natural gas is used as a fuel to create materials as well as chemicals.

What Is Natural Gas Used for?

Natural gas is used for many things within commercial buildings and our homes. Below are just a few of the common things that natural gas may be used for:

  • Electricity generation
  • Laundry dryers
  • Gas stoves and ovens
  • Heating and cooling systems
  • Fireplaces
  • Fire pits
  • Barbeque grills
  • Water heaters

What Does a Natural Gas Leak Smell Like?

Natural gas has no scent, and our noses cannot pick it up. Mercaptan, a harmless chemical, is used by natural gas companies to give the fuel its distinctive “rotten egg” smell. Some have reported, however, that the smell from a natural gas leak smelled like something other than rotten eggs.

If you smell something in your home that is questionable, it may be due to a natural gas leak.

Do I Need a Natural Gas Detector?

You need a natural gas detector to ensure you and your family are protected from a natural gas leak. Despite not being as prevalent as smoke detectors or fire extinguishers on the list of essential household items, natural gas detectors are nonetheless important since they may spot potentially dangerous situations.

How Many Natural Gas Detectors Do I Need?

Natural gas detectors should be installed in all rooms of your home that have a gas appliance, such as the laundry room, the kitchen, and where the water heater is located.

Where to Put Natural Gas Detectors

Any interior space that has a gas-powered appliance needs to have a natural gas alarm installed. This can refer to a gas dryer, fireplace, water heater, stove, or furnace. It must be mounted on the wall, four to twelve inches below the ceiling.

A natural gas alarm should be installed as far away from gas appliances as is practical, ideally more than 10 feet away, and should be placed in every room that has a natural gas appliance.

This should lessen the number of unnecessary nuisance alerts that may sound if a natural gas alarm is installed close to a gas source.

Will a Carbon Monoxide Detector Detect a Propane Leak?

A carbon monoxide detector will not detect a propane leak, as they are made to only detect the carbon monoxide in the air. There are some manufacturers, however, that do make detectors that are capable of detecting more than one type of gas.

It’s recommended to pay close attention to both the quality of the product as well as what the packaging proclaims to detect. If the packaging only mentions the detection of carbon monoxide, then it’s safe to assume that product is not designed to detect propane gas and natural gas.

What Is Propane Gas?

Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), often known as propane, is a gas that is frequently compressed and preserved in liquid form. It has almost no smell, no color, and is harmless. In order to make it recognizable in the event of a propane leak, a significant odor is added.

The following are commonly fueled using propane:

  • Water and space heating
  • Buses
  • Fleet automobiles
  • Forklifts

The Propane and Education Research Council states that as a result of recent technical advancements, applications are rapidly developing.

What Does Propane Gas Smell Like?

Because propane gas has no scent, our nose cannot detect it. Mercaptan, a harmless chemical, is used by propane manufacturing companies to give the fuel its distinctive “rotten egg” smell.

It’s critical that every residence has a propane detector since, in some places, propane that travels via pipes is odorless.

People who are elderly or on certain prescription medications may not be able to smell propane as well as others. Additionally, an older propane tank’s corrosion may remove the synthetic odor that the manufacturer provided.

What Detector Do I Need for Propane?

Pay close attention to the alarm’s quality before making a purchase. Underwriters Laboratories, or UL, ought to be written on the label. When installing these devices, be careful to fully adhere to the instructions to ensure optimal operation.

If you’re worried that you won’t be able to smell the gas if you have a leak in your home, investing in one of these alarms may help keep your family members safe and bring you peace of mind.

Where to Put Propane Gas Detectors

Install propane detectors close to any appliances that use the fuel, such as your water heater in the basement, your range in the kitchen, your fireplace, or your furnace. Propane detectors should also be placed outside of all sleeping quarters and in any rooms where you use space heaters.


Trina Greenfield, Author
SmackDown Media LLC

About the Author:
Trina Greenfield, the owner of SmackDown Media LLC, is passionate about providing information to those interested in the air quality in and around their homes. Trina writes content about things she’s passionate about, such as safe, in-home air, educational platforms for children and adults, as well as all things family-related.