A gas leak detector can be a literal life saver. They work in different ways, depending on the gas they are targeted toward, and the device should be used exactly as the manufacturer describes. Gas leak sensors detect the presence of a combustible or toxic gas and react by displaying a reading, setting off an audible or visual alarm and/or sending an alert to your phone. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to install them, so they are positioned in the most appropriate location, like outside a bedroom for a carbon monoxide detector, or near a gas appliance for a combustible gas detector.
The engineers at Good Housekeeping Institute have evaluated numerous gas leak detectors. When we road test, we expose the sensors to gas to see if they set off an alert, assess the ease of setup and intuitiveness of the companion apps, and look at things like integration with other smart home products. Based upon our testing, category expertise, and review of newer and innovative leak detectors on the market, these are the best gas leak detectors for you:
- Best Combination Gas Detector: Kidde Nighthawk KN-COEG-3
- Best Combustible Gas Detector: EG Air EG-NGD050 Natural/Propane Gas Detector
- Best Handheld Combustible Gas Leak Detector: Amprobe GSD 600 Gas Leak Detector
- Best Carbon Monoxide & Smoke Detector: First Alert Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm SCO501CN
- Best Propane Gas Leak Detector: MTI Industries 30-442-P-WT Propane Gas Alarm
- Best Radon Gas Leak Detector: Corentium Home by Airthings
- Best Smart Gas Leak Detector: Nest Protect Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detector
What type of gas to watch out for
Some carbon monoxide detectors double up on protection and also alert you if smoke is present, while others can identify more than one gas, making them more useful for multiple applications. The manufacturers are very specific about which gas or gases their detector will sense, and the detector will not sniff out a certain gas if it's not listed by the manufacturer. Here are some of the common offenders you'll want to watch out for in your home:
- Combustible gases: Natural gas mostly comprising methane and propane have an additive called mercaptan that smells like rotten eggs – but if you’re not in the immediate area where the source is, you might not smell that leak until it’s catastrophically too late. Combustible detectors use catalytic and infrared sensors, and since propane gas is heavier than air, detectors should be placed low to the ground.
- Toxic gases like carbon monoxide: Exposure to high levels of colorless odorless carbon monoxide (CO) from a leaking appliance or a vehicle running in an attached garage is harmful, and can be fatal. These gases are lighter than air, so detectors should be placed high in a room to detect potential leaks. Toxic gases are identified by electrochemical and metal oxide semiconductor technologies.
- Radon: While a concentration in your basement or crawl space may not cause your home to explode the way propane or natural gas can, it’s radioactive and is the second leading cause of lung cancer, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Best Combination Gas Detector
Nighthawk Plug-in Carbon Monoxide and Explosive Gas Detector
Now 24% off
Best Combustible Gas Detector
Propane & Natural Gas Detector
Now 20% off
Best Handheld Combustible Gas Leak Detector
GSD600 Gas Leak Detector
Now 22% off
Best Carbon Monoxide & Smoke Detector
First Alert SCO501CN-3ST Combination Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm
Best Propane Gas Leak Detector
30-442-P-WT Propane Gas Alarm
$53 AT AMAZON $54 AT WALMART
Best Radon Gas Leak Detector
Corentium Home Radon Detector
Now 31% off
Best Smart Gas Leak Detector
S3000BWES Nest Protect
What type of gas leak detector is best?
Throughout your home, you may need multiple gas leak detectors, especially if you have more than one bedroom or level. Most of the sensors we have recommended will operate continuously, usually for years, to alert you if a gas leak is detected. These detectors are not designed to identify the exact source of a leak. Utility companies strongly caution homeowners against searching for the source if they have been alerted to a potential gas leak.
Stationary devices: These gas leak detectors are installed either on the ceiling or high up on a wall, or in another specific location as directed. They sense toxic gas leaks (like carbon monoxide) or combustible gases (like propane or natural gas) — some units also detect smoke. They run continuously and are either battery powered or hardwired to the home’s electrical system. If the device is plugged into an outlet, it should come equipped with an extension so that the sensor can be located higher up the wall to accommodate different gases.
Handheld probe: These sniffer devices detect combustible explosive gases in the area near the probe and display the concentration of gas on a meter. They can be used as a safety check if you have just installed a gas appliance and you suspect a potential gas leak from piping. These units don’t run continuously, and cannot sense carbon monoxide and therefore cannot be used in place of carbon monoxide or smoke detectors.
Spray: A gas leak detector spray is only effective if you manage to spray it on exactly the spot where the potentially explosive gas leak is occurring. It works the same way as spraying soapy water on a tire that's losing air. It's for this reason that we don't recommend using spray gas leak detectors.
Pens: A gas leak detector pen senses combustible gas. We advise against this form of detector since it has to be very close to source of the gas leak in order to detect it, which is extremely dangerous. It also doesn’t detect carbon monoxide and doesn’t operate continuously.
What to look out for when buying a gas leak detector
Battery life: Make sure the device has an indicator so you know it’s powered. Test your installed detectors every month, and replace the batteries at least once a year. Choosing to replace them on New Year’s Day will be a good reminder. Some devices are a sealed unit and must be completely replaced when the battery fails.
Expiration date: Many units are only designed to function effectively for a certain amount of time only (e.g., 5 years, 7 years, 10 years). Make a point of replacing the device in advance of the expiration date.
Type of gas: It’s important to understand which gases can be detected by the device and which won’t be. Some detectors can identify more than one gas and some can detect smoke. But don’t make the incorrect assumption that a CO detector will also detect a natural gas leak: Unless it specifically says it will, it won’t.
UL-Listed: For peace of mind, and better assurance of their functionality and operational safety, your gas leak detectors should reflect the UL Listed mark, to indicate they have been tested by and meet the safety standards of the Underwriter Laboratories, a third-party organization that conducts rigorous independent research and analyzes safety data to develop standards to guide the safe, sustainable commercialization of evolving technologies.
Sensitivity: Sensors with adjustable and greater sensitivity make it easier to identify the source of the gas leak.
App-based alerts: Some devices can send data via an app to your smart phone, via WiFi or Bluetooth, to let you monitor the situation even if you’re not there.
Smart home integration: If you already have other smart home gadgets, you’ll want to check if the gas leak detectors can integrate with your smart home ecosystem and boost your home security.
What to know about installing a gas leak detector
Follow the manufacturer's instructions on where to put a gas leak detector. Whether the device is plugged into a wall outlet, or is battery operated and mounted on a wall or ceiling, it's important that these detectors are installed in the optimum location so that they have the best chance of detecting a gas leak and alerting you. For example, you'll install a natural gas (methane) detector near a gas appliance. Since natural gas and carbon monoxide is lighter than air and rises, detectors should be place higher in a room. Meanwhile, propane is heavier than air and sinks, so the sensor should be situated lower to accommodate.
You may need additional sensors placed strategically around your home. According to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), carbon monoxide detectors should be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area, and on every level of the home and in other locations where required by applicable laws, codes or standards.
Interconnect your devices. Per the NFPA, for the best protection, you should interconnect all CO alarms throughout the home, so that when one sounds, they all sound.
If you are hard of hearing, some smoke/CO alarms are equipped with a strobe light which turns on when the alarm is triggered. A bed-shaker can be set up to be activated by the alarm to awaken and alert someone who may have removed their hearing aids for the night. The Red Cross has a program to install a limited number of specialized bedside alarms for those who cannot afford them.
What to do if you detect gas at home
Evacuate the house immediately if you detect that rotten egg smell of a potential combustible gas leak (natural gas or propane), and call your gas company from outside the home. Utility companies advise that if you suspect a gas leak in your home that you do NOT attempt to identify the source of the leak.
If the carbon monoxide detector sounds, ensure everyone (including pets) is accounted for and outside or in a well-ventilated space, and call the local fire department. Let them advise you when it’s safe to reenter the home.
Avoid turning anything on or off. That goes for light switches, appliances, thermostats and even a doorbell, on or off – the action could cause a spark which could ignite flammable gasses.
Do not ventilate the home. Let the fire department or utility company try to identify the source of the leak.
Lynn RedmileLynn Redmile is a contributing Testing and Product Review Analyst at the Good Housekeeping Institute, where she's been evaluating products since 2012.
- Best Combination Gas Detector: Kidde Nighthawk KN-COEG-3.
- Best Combustible Gas Detector: EG Air EG-NGD050 Natural/Propane Gas Detector.
- Best Handheld Combustible Gas Leak Detector: Amprobe GSD 600 Gas Leak Detector.
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