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RV Carbon Monoxide (CO) alarms

There are three basic technologies used today

The nation’s lead laboratory on Indoor Air Quality is Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL).  LBNL tested all CO technologies and found that the biotechnology sensors made in the USA by Quantum Group Inc. are the most reliable and the only technology that does not false alarm to common household gases and vapors.

Are Carbon Monoxide alarms a necessity for all Recreational Vehicles? YES !

There are a number of concerns in your selection of a CO Alarm besides the ratings by the UL listing.  Number 1 is reliability to detect CO and number 2 is you want an alarm free of false alarms.  There are many cases where people who have had one or 2 false alarms disconnected the alarm when it was actually CO and they or their loved ones perished.

The third factor is the shape of the alarm, such as round or rectangular. Does the alarm you plan to buy cover over the existing pattern if you are replacing a CO alarm in you RV? It is far easier to mount a round alarm as its position and level is not critical.  Mounting a rectangular detector requires precise measurement to get it correct.

What is the UL rating for RVs?

RVCOalarms are for unconditioned spaces. Alarms you buy in chain stores are only for conditioned space that does not move such as a home and have limited temperature and humidity extremes..  CO alarms have a maximum 6 year life and should be replaced every five (5) to six (6) years at a minimum. Examine the product and look for a replacement date because you will forget when you bought it and that could cost you your life.  Most alarms made after 2009 have an audio signal and LED pattern that alert you to an end of life.  UL in their wisdom finally added something that should be in all safety products and I applaud them for finally taking this step.  But that leaves millions with old alarms that do not alert you to the when they need replacement.  Please examine your alarm. If you have any question call the manufacturer.  There is a date code on most alarms but you may need the manufacturer to help you find it and interpret it.  One call can save your family.


UL has separate test protocols for unconditioned (cars, RVs, boats, private aircraft) and conditioned (home, hotels and apartments) spaces.  The UL 2034 standard conditioned space test procedure (protocol) takes about 2 months while the more rigorous unconditioned space test procedure takes over 4 months to complete.  The longer tests are more expense but the real reason you need them is that the other alarms will likely fail to operate when you need it.  Buy the right tool for the job and you will be your own hero.

The UL unconditioned spaces require test such as 66 degrees C plus or minus 4º C for 30 days followed by the UL CO test protocol, see below:

CO Gas Amount       Time to Alarm

30 PPM                    No alarm 30 days

70 PPM                    60 to 240 minutes

150 PPM                  10 and 50 minutes

400 PPM                   4 and 15 minutes

PPM is parts per million

The unconditioned space also requires minus 40º C and extreme high temperature (66 °C) and high and low humidities 10 % relative humidity (RH) for 1 week and 93% RH for 10 days at 61 °C, vibration and shock and much more. These extremes, hot and cold temperatures, high and low RH, are preconditioned for periods of time from 3 days to 30 days followed by each of the UL tests above after each extreme. For complete detail you can click on the sequential test protocol.

Many people store their RVs in the winter and some store them in summer in the desert where temperatures reach temperatures 122 °F (50 °C), Dry campers often spend a year traveling to locations with no hook ups so they use their generators or nothing.  These stays can be for extended periods of time in the heat of summer and the freezing cold of winter using their generator, which is a good reason for all the extra testing at UL by itself.  However, there is another important reason, that is the shock and vibration on the road and often on dirt roads or very bumpy gravel roads, which makes it important to have a special test protocols (including shock and vibration tests ,salt spray, corrosion and more) for listing carbon monoxide alarms used in all RVs.

The Power Source

The best alarm is a dual battery 12 volt hookup and a 9 Volt battery backup as most RVs have 2 batteries.

The Price

The other option is battery only and that is fine but it is not the best. When it comes to your life the best is available.  The Quantum Group Inc. makers of COSTAR ® have a sale on its

Hardwire and Battery RV Carbon Monoxide Alarms:

COSTAR® Model 12RV-DB 

BatteryRV Carbon Monoxide Alarm:

COSTAR® Model 9RV   

Please go to for current specials. 

Sources of CO in an RV

The major sources of carbon monoxide poisoning in recreational vehicles are generators, fires, charcoal, engine exhaust, portable grills, space heaters, gas stoves and ovens, camp fires, portable generators located within 25 feet of your vehicle, defective exhaust system and vents system.  When parked nearby a neighbor can be a source of CO poisoning.

Installing the RV CO alarm

You can mount your alarm with a circular mounting plate. Two screws are supplied along with directions for mounting. If you have a battery powered unit such as the Quantum Guardian® Model QG100 or COSTAR® 9RV then you only need to activate the battery and press the test button and hold for about 10 to 20 seconds and you will hear 2 cycles of alarm.  That means all is well and you are ready to take the final step, which is to insert the alarm into the mounting plate and twist. It takes only about 5 minutes to install a battery powered RV CO alarm.

The dual source 12 volt CO alarm such as COSTAR® Model 12RV-DB you will need to mount the mounting plate first.  Then connect the wires from each battery to the alarm.  This can be done with solder and heat-shrink tubing or wire nuts.  Then you can mount the alarm onto the mounting plate, It can take 10 to 20 minutes to install the 12RV-DB, however, if you are replacing the unit the wires that are already there and the plate is already mounted, you need only disconnect the old and connect the new RV CO alarm.  At last you and your loved ones are protected with the best alarm in the world based on LBNL Report # 40556.