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Portable Carbon Monoxide Detectors Save Lives

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Learn about the advantages of portable detectors, and get recommendations on different brands.

Learn about the advantages of portable detectors, and get recommendations on different brands.

Gas Leaks in Hotel Rooms Can Be Deadly

According to an article in the Charlotte Observer, undetected toxic gas leaks in US hotels killed eight people and sickened more than 250 from 2013–2018. Unbelievably, there is no governmental agency that tracks these deaths and injuries. How can we protect ourselves from the invisible danger of asphyxiation from toxic gas while on vacation?

Deaths per 100,000 population sorted by age group.

Deaths per 100,000 population sorted by age group.

A Gas Detector Can Save Your Life

Safety when traveling is not always our first priority, even when we know it should be. If you're like me, you're way more focused on packing the right shoes, remembering your passport, and getting to the airport than you are on safety precautions like a portable carbon monoxide detector. But if you look at the statistics, you're at risk when you go to a tourist destination without one. Even in high-end resorts, as the terrible events at the Bahia Principe resort in Mexico proved in 2018, you can become the victim of an invisible, odorless gas leak that can very easily kill you and your family in their sleep.

Toxic gas leaks in hotels can kill and injure guests.

Toxic gas leaks in hotels can kill and injure guests.

An Affordable, Portable Solution to the Threat of Toxic Gas Leaks

Fortunately, there is a way to safeguard against the very real dangers posed by these gas leaks. Portable carbon monoxide and natural gas detectors are inexpensive and readily available online. They pack easily and function immediately wherever you plug them in. It's sad and disturbing to think that people have died in their vacation hotel room simply because they did not have a $30 device that plugs into the wall.

Stats on carbon monoxide exposure from the CDC.

Stats on carbon monoxide exposure from the CDC.

Are Carbon Monoxide and Toxic Gas Detectors Reliable?

While it's true that traveling with a good carbon monoxide and explosive gas detector can be a life-saver, it's also true that none of the carbon monoxide detectors available online are 100% reliable. For this reason, having a gas detector carries the risk of also having a false sense of security. While the detectors in this guide may very well save lives, there is always the chance that one may malfunction. Please read the reviews and features of these gas detectors very carefully before you buy, and be aware that no detector can be, or claims to be, 100% reliable 100% of the time.

Bottom line: You have a toxic gas detector for the same reason you have a smoke detector in your house. You need every measure you can get to protect yourself and the ones you love. It's true that no method is perfect, but it's always better to be protected than not.

Comparing the Features of Natural Gas Detectors



Real Human Voice Alarm; Sound and Light Alarm; Imported Processor; Anti-Jamming; Anti-Corrosion



9 volt battery backup; Battery included; 3 separate LED status displays; Microprocessor blocks nuisance alarms; Covers only one outlet; Displays CO parts per million



Flex Probe can locate leak; Audible and Visual alarms; adjustable sensitivity button



Loud 85-decibel alarm; Digital Display; Peak Level Memory; Test/Reset Button; Three mounting options; Battery backup 9 volt; Battery included


The ALOPEX detector.

The ALOPEX detector.

ALOPEX Combustible Gas Detector: Propane, Methane, CH4, LPG, Butane, Coal Gas

This ALOPEX toxic gas detector representative of the better gas detectors you can find online. I like this one because it detects a wide range of potentially toxic gases, and in my travels I have found that you encounter all kinds of threats. In Mexico, for example, I have stayed in places that used propane gas exclusively for both stove and refrigerator. This gas had no added odor for safety, so if there were a leak I would not have known without this detector or one like it.

This product has a decent star rating and a few complaints in the reviews, but if you read closely you'll see that every gas detector has its share of bad reviews. As with any smoke or gas detector, there is a chance for false positives and negatives, but it's always better to be protected than to travel unprotected.


  • Real Human Voice Alarm
  • Sound and Light Alarm
  • Percentage from 0% to 20% LEL,
  • Combustible Natural Gas alarm.
  • Burst LED Flash Warning
  • Use High Quality Gas Sensor and Imported Processor; More Stable and Reliable Performance.
  • Anti-Jamming and Anti-Corrosion
The Universal Security detector.

The Universal Security detector.

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Universal Security Instruments Plug-In Carbon Monoxide and Natural Gas Alarm

This unit by Universal Security is among the most popular carbon monoxide and natural gas detectors out there, but proceed with caution—there are several reviews that reveal an alarming (pun intended) tendency for this unit to malfunction or fail to detect the presence of cooking gas. Some report that it is very sensitive and responds to any source of hydrocarbon, which I like because it covers all kinds of potentially toxic gas leaks that I might encounter when traveling, while others are not as enthusiastic.

It's definitely worth your time to be careful and skeptical when deciding on a portable gas detector, since there's an awful lot riding on the unit's dependability. Issues like battery drain, false positives, and just plain failure to detect are unacceptable when the detector is entrusted with a life-or-death issue like toxic gas poisoning.


  • Plug-in Carbon Monoxide and Natural Gas alarm with 9 volt battery backup (battery included)
  • 3 separate colored LED lights display status of alarm power, CO, and gas levels
  • Microprocessor intelligence helps eliminate nuisance alarms caused by non-hazardous sources
  • Compact design covers only one outlet, no wiring required
  • Digital display screen provides CO parts per million levels and displays "GAS"
The SGILE detector.

The SGILE detector.

SGILE Combustible Natural Gas Detector, Propane Sensor and Portable Gas Leak Detector

I like this carbon monoxide/natural gas detector because it can "sniff out" the exact source of a leak with the snake-like sensor. If everything seems secure but you're still smelling gas or getting an alert from your gas detector, this unit can pin-point the leak and possibly help you seal it.


  • Flex Probe: Natural Gas Detector with a highly sensitive sensing tip can locate leaking spot effortlessly.
  • Audible And Visual Alarms: Natural Gas Detector will sound the ticking voice alarm with LED flashing red light when it detects combustible gases including kitchen methane and natural gas
  • High Sensitivity Sensor equipped with adjustable sensitivity rotate button
  • Suitable for use in household and other places, including oil production, chemical, municipal, sewage treatment, coal gas, mining, fire, storage, brewing and other places to detect toxic gases.
  • Detects methane, natural gas, propane, ethane, coal gas, gas oil, gasoline, toluene, alcohol, ketone and other flammable gases.
The Nighthawk detector.

The Nighthawk detector.

Kidde KN-COEG-3 Nighthawk Plug-In Carbon Monoxide and Explosive Gas Alarm With Battery Backup

This excellent plug-in unit by Kidde has the most reviews on Amazon and a 4-star rating, but there there are some negative reviews that made me think twice about choosing this portable gas detector unit. The main issue, with this one and to some degree with all smoke and carbon monoxide detection units, is the presence of false positives—they tend to go off even when there's not enough gas or be an issue.

With that in mind, I think it's worth quoting a review at some length. This person acknowledges the drawbacks in gas detection units, but also tells a fairly terrifying story in which a toxic gas detector probably saved lives:

"After reading the negative reviews, I had to post, because this thing probably saved my life. To the people who say 'if gas is leaking, you'll smell it,' I can reply, 'Not if you're asleep and/or across the house, you can't.' And if you're asleep during a sudden gas event, you might not wake up. My old natural gas boiler failed at 2AM on a 15-degrees-below-zero night. This Explosive Gas alarm woke me from across the house, and without me being able to smell gas in my bedroom yet, and I'm very sensitive to that scent. The responding fire department told me that the boiler was on the verge of exploding/catching house on fire."

Ultimately, you have a toxic gas detector for the same reason you have a smoke detector—because it's better than not having one. But you are also aware that they are fallible, and not the only safety method you should have in your house.


  • Protects you and your family from carbon monoxide and explosive gas.
  • Loud 85-decibel pulsing alarm that will sound to alert you to a potential problem.
  • Displays the level of carbon monoxide the unit is sensing.
  • Peak Level Memory
  • Test/Reset Button
  • Three convenient mounting options
Some countries rely on natural gas and propane for both heating and cooking.

Some countries rely on natural gas and propane for both heating and cooking.

Mexico and Central America: Powered by Gas

I love the tropics, and I travel there at least twice a year. I love the laid-back vibe of small beach towns and even the hustle-minded vibe of touristy places like Cancun and Tulum. While it's true that overall crime in Mexico is high, if you're not involved in narco-trafficking and stay away from a few bad areas, the risk plummets and you can enjoy yourself along with other 71 million Americans who go there every year. By all means go, but travel smart and plan wisely!

One thing you will immediately notice in the American tropics is the reliance on natural gas and propane for cooking and heating. If the stove or heating connection is corroded or loose, you can have a real problem on your hands. There are fewer regulations (which are the same as "protections") in a country like Panama, Jamaica, or Mexico, so that makes it even more important to take precautions.

A corroded or loose connection on a stove can spell big trouble.

A corroded or loose connection on a stove can spell big trouble.

10 Essential Facts About Carbon Monoxide Leaks

According to trusted online sources, here are the ten most important facts that you need to know about the threat posed by a leak of carbon monoxide gas:

  1. Heating systems, gas fires and gas cookers are most often the source of dangerous gas leaks in the home.
  2. The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headaches, dizziness, breathlessness, nausea, and collapse.
  3. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are often mistaken for food poisoning, viral infections and even the flu.
  4. The highest risk from carbon monoxide and other toxic gases is to children and the elderly. It's also possible for your pets to be affected (hence the common use of a "canary in a coalmine" to detect the presence of dangerous natural gas).
  5. Common danger signs in your home can include the pilot light blowing out frequently, more condensation that usual on your windows, and unusual dark staining around or on your appliances.
  6. A carbon monoxide and natural gas alert is affordable and easy to install.
  7. Never use an illegal gas fitter for your boilers. Check their credentials of any repairmen and installers.
  8. If you think you are experiencing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, turn off gas appliances and open doors and windows to allow fresh air to circulate.
  9. If you think you may be poisoned, do not procrastinate! Head straight for the emergency room and get tested.
  10. If you think you have a leak, call 911 and get safety officials out to your house. Turn off and do not use the suspect appliance.


The following sources were used for this guide:

  • & Life Safety

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


Dianna Mendez on June 13, 2018:

Good post on helping people stay safe when traveling.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on May 27, 2018:

Hello GreenMind, thanks for the article. It is very helpful, even if one is not traveling. It also better to have one in a car, because gas leaks occur in cars. And some persons cannot identify such easily.

Thanks again.

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