The level of comfort in an RV is important, but what is much more important than that is safety. Dealing with essentially a home with wheels, you are also dealing with the risk of smoke & CO accidents.
And if you happen to be looking for ways to improve the safety in your RV, our material featuring what we think are the best RV smoke detectors and more may interest you.
Best RV Smoke Detectors
Up first on our list is a digital CO detector by Dometic. This particular model has been previously manufactured by Atwood. But ever since Atwood has been acquired by Dometic, their safety device line has been produced by Dometic.
This carbon dioxide detector employs an electrochemical sensor to detect CO in the air, which is the type of sensor most CO detectors use today. Thanks to the inbuilt display, you can see the CO level in the air at any time, even if it hasn’t reached dangerous levels. The display would allow you, for example, to spot the CO level creeping up and take measures to prevent it from becoming dangerous.
Dometic boasts that this CO detector has a 10-year life cycle, which is very good for CO alarms since they usually live for 5 years or so.
Remarkably, this CO detector can be either wall-mounted or used as a tabletop unit. But unless you will be moving the detector around, you should mount it to a wall in your RV.
Lastly, the Dometic digital CO detector operates on three AA batteries, so you don’t need to hardwire it to your RV’s electrical system. On the other hand, you will need to keep an eye on the batteries’ condition, which is a small minus.
- The inbuilt digital display shows CO levels.
- Long 10-year life cycle.
- Can be either wall-mounted or set on a table.
The FG250RV by BRK is an RV-approved smoke detector. And a very good one, we should say, both in terms of safety and easiness of use.
The FG250RV is compliant with the smoke alarm Standard 217 of Underwriters Laboratories. And since the testing procedures of UL are pretty rigorous, one can be sure that this smoke alarm does its job well.
Relying on a dual-ionization sensing chamber, the BRK FG250RV smoke detector is designed to detect smaller particles produced by flaming, fast flames. On the other hand, it won’t be good at detecting the larger particles of smoldering smoke.
This smoke alarm is again battery-operated, with a 9V alkaline battery included out of the box. With the hinged cover design, replacing the battery in this smoke alarm isn’t too difficult. Plus, the tamper-resistant pin locks the alarm cover to prevent removal of the battery.
- Great at detecting smoke from flaming fires.
- The tamper-resistant locking pin prevents battery removal.
- Won’t detect smoldering smoke too well.
The CO400MRVA Smoke & CO detector by First Alert has a simpler design than the Dometic detector we reviewed in the beginning. This detector doesn’t have the digital display or the long lifetime of the Dometic detector, but it is noticeably cheaper.
But when it comes to CO detection performance, the CO400MRVA detector shouldn’t differ from the Dometic unit too much. The main reason for this is that they both employ effective electrochemical sensors.
In terms of lifetime, this CO detector doesn’t offer anything too outstanding – it is designed to live for 5 years, which is typical for smoke detectors. And, unlike the Dometic detector, this thing operates on a 9V battery.
The absence of the display may actually be an advantage for you. For some people, displays overcomplicate things in CO detectors. And if you don’t need the benefits of an inbuilt display in a CO detector, the CO400MRVA detector may be a good option for you.
- Not too expensive.
- Intuitive and easy to use.
- Hush Feature temporarily silences nuisance alarms
- Battery backup 1 9V battery included
The PI9010 smoke alarm by Kidde is a great option if you are looking to fully smoke-protect your RV. Unlike the BRK smoke alarm we overviewed a little earlier, this smoke alarm comes with two types of sensors – ionization and photoelectric.
Thanks to this, this smoke alarm is capable of detecting smoke from either flaming or smoldering fires. Each type of sensor basically covers the dead zone of the other.
Like the BRK smoke alarm, the PI9010 alarm is compliant with the UL 217 smoke alarm standard, so you could be sure that you will get good performance from it. Aside from that, the Kidde PI9010 smoke alarm is also made tamper-resistant and also operates on a 9V battery.
In the end, for a little higher price than with the BRK FB250RV alarm, the PI9010 smoke alarm delivers pretty much comprehensive protection from smoke thanks to its dual sensors.
- Can detect smoke from both flaming and smoldering fires.
- Meets the requirements of the UL 217 standard.
- A bit pricey.
- Power Supply & Current Draw: 108 mA @ 12 VDC
- Operational Range: 12 Volts +/-15%
And the last safety alarm on our list is the Safe-T-Alert 35-742 dual CO/LP alarm by MTI industries. If you’ve been looking to protect your RV crew from not only CO but also propane, then this may be a great option.
This alarm features two independent electronic sensors that can detect CO and propane simultaneously. Aside from that, the Safe-T-Alert CO/LP alarm is also UL-listed, so its two sensors will likely deliver good performance.
A thing that you may also like about this CO/LP alarm is that it is designed to be hardwired to a 12V RV battery. This means that as long as your RV battery has charge (which it should always have), this alarm is going to operate.
On the other hand, if something happens to your RV battery in some accident, the alarm won’t be able to run autonomously, so be mindful of that.
- Detects propane and CO.
- Hardwired design.
- Cannot operate autonomously.
Things to look for in RV smoke and CO detectors
Now, we do know what each of the reviewed detectors has to offer, but how to pick the best RV smoke detector or CO detector? Well, let’s have a look at the things that matter the most in them.
Types of RV smoke & CO detectors
Smoke detectors, as suggested by their name, are designed specifically to detect smoke in the air. Since fires can burn differently and produce varying smoke, there are two types of smoke detectors on the market – ionization and photoelectric. There also are dual-sensor smoke detectors that combine the features of the two.
Ionization smoke detectors are the most effective with fast, flaming fires that produce smaller smoke particles. On the other hand, these smoke detectors don’t react well to smoldering and smoky fires. In addition, they tend to false-alarm from steam and burnt food, so place them away from the RV kitchen and bathroom.
In contrast with ionization smoke detectors, photoelectric smoke detectors are effective at detecting large smoke particles that are typical of smoldering & smoky fires. Pretty much, photoelectric smoke detectors mirror the pros and cons of ionization detectors. Thus, they may be used in kitchen and bathroom areas.
Lastly, dual-sensor smoke detectors, as the name implies, combine the technologies of the two other detector types. As a result, these detectors detect particles of either fast or smoldering fires. Dual-sensor smoke detectors cost more but in exchange allow you to avoid the hassle of installing two separate smoke detectors.
Carbon monoxide detectors
Carbon monoxide detectors are specifically designed to detect carbon monoxide in the air. The technology used in these detectors is completely different, which means that they can’t detect smoke (as well as explosive gases like propane or natural gas). Likewise, smoke detectors cannot detect carbon monoxide.
Carbon monoxide detectors also have different kinds of sensors, but the majority of CO detectors nowadays are relying on electrochemical sensors. Electrochemical sensors rely on electrodes and chemical solutions to detect high CO levels and alert you about it. These sensors have proven to be the most effective among all the CO detector sensor types, so you don’t need to look for other CO sensor types unless specifically needed.
Two-in-one smoke and CO detectors
Some detectors available out there combine the capabilities of smoke and CO sensors, allowing you to keep track of the level of smoke and CO at safe levels with just one device. Needless to say, you are probably going to pay more for a combo smoke & CO detector
Important features in smoke & CO detectors
Smart CO & smoke detectors are available on the market, offering more convenience and perhaps more safety to RVers.
For example, smart detectors occasionally do diagnostics and alert you via their companion mobile device apps if anything is wrong. Among the other conveniences that smart detectors offer is the ability to hush alarms from your mobile device, check their battery level, and overall control and monitor all the functions of the detector remotely.
Smoke detectors usually don’t come with inbuilt displays, but CO detectors do. What the built-in screens do is display the carbon monoxide concentrations in parts per million. In fact, they display the CO concentration even if it is well below the dangerous level that triggers the alarm.
An inbuilt display could alert you of the CO levels inching up, possibly higher than usual. In addition, some units show the peak CO levels after their last reset, which would allow you, for example, to see if there have been any spikes while you were away.
Considering the power source of your smoke/CO detector is very important. If your detector isn’t powered properly, then it won’t work when it is needed.
Detectors can either operate on a battery or be hardwired to your RV’s electrical system in order to run without batteries. Units that are intended to be hardwired usually have backup battery sources though for cases when your RV battery discharges.
The main advantage of battery-operating units is that they don’t require any complex hardwiring procedures from you: you just need to mount them in a proper spot. However, with such detectors, battery charge and health become a concern – you will need to not only keep track of the battery charge but also occasionally check the battery health.
Hardwired detectors don’t rely on an inbuilt battery to operate, but they do rely on an external power source like an RV battery. Hardwired detectors work as long as your RV battery is charged. And even if the detector loses power, its backup batteries will keep it up and running for some time.
With hardwired detectors, the RV battery isn’t as big of an issue since you have to keep it in good shape with or without the detector installed. On the other hand, with a battery-operated detector, you will have one more battery to worry about. Hardwired detectors do require more effort for setup though.
Safety lights can truly be lifesavers in smoke or CO detectors. In an emergency at night, safety lights would allow you to quickly orient yourself in the RV and escape if the situation requires it. So it is a good idea to have safety or strobe lights in your smoke or CO detector.
Date of manufacture
Detectors lose their sensitivity with time, so the newer a smoke/CO detector is, the better. Usually, it is recommended to replace CO detectors every 5 years and smoke detectors every 10 years. While you don’t need to get a brand-new detector, make sure that it at least falls within these time frames.
You may also want your RV safety detector to have an Underwriters Laboratories (UL) certification. If you didn’t know, UL is a global safety certification company operating for around 125 years, and it has rather rigorous requirements that safety devices need to satisfy in order to be UL-certified. So if a smoke/CO detector is UL-certified, you can be sure that it has good performance.
Safety systems are no joke, and you should approach choosing a smoke or CO detector very carefully.
We’ve provided you with general guidelines on choosing a proper detector, which should be enough for you. But do keep in mind that there may be some specifics unique to you and your RV. Make sure to understand what you need and only then decide which detector to go for.