Click here to Find a Contractor in your area.
Welcome! Here are the website rules, as well as some tips for using this forum.
Need to contact us? Visit

Lightning and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Two weeks ago, we had a nasty storm on the eastern end of long island. A lightning bolt struck nearby and one of my upstairs carbon monoxide detectors (a plug in model) sounded. It indicated 880 pm of CO. How weird is that? The level slowly dropped back to zero and it has not been heard from since.

I have researched this and have come up with nothing. Have any of you experienced anything similar?


  • Jean-David Beyer
    Jean-David Beyer Member Posts: 2,665
    Replace the CO detector?

    Unless you think the lightning strike could have generated A LOT of CO, it may have damaged your detector. Or it may just have frightened it and it will get over it. But if it were in my house, I would replace it. Most CO detectors are cheap and it is easier to replace it than to test it. Of course, you have nothing to lose but your life by keeping the one you have.
  • Tim_Hodgson
    Tim_Hodgson Member Posts: 60
    It would be

    interesting to see if that brand of CO detector is triggered by ozone.

    I now know what I am doing this weekend...

    Thanks for the idea,

  • Tim McElwain
    Tim McElwain Member Posts: 4,446
    Eugene just read this posting

    I had a similar thing happen back about a year ago while teaching one of my night classes. The lightening struck the flag pole we have outside the center, I have two plug in CO detectors and one CO Experts detector all of them went off and registered between 400 to 500 PPM there was also a very strong odor of what I call brimstone such as probably what hell smells like with Fire and brimstone.
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,318
    Well, carbon monoxide produces ozone...

    when oxidized, by the reaction: CO + 2O2 --> CO2 + O3 (sorry, I can't do subscripts here)

    Since this is a simple, reversible redox reaction, if you increase the [O3], it drives the reaction in the other direction. So I bet the ozone was responsible, but only because it could produce trace amounts of carbon monoxide from atmospheric carbon dioxide.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • Jean-David Beyer
    Jean-David Beyer Member Posts: 2,665
    It has been over 50 years since I took chemistry.

    and I have forgotten most of it.

    "carbon monoxide produces ozone
    when oxidized, by the reaction:

       CO + 2O2 --> CO2 + O3"

    It seems to me that the following reaction also would apply:

    2CO + O2 --> 2 CO2

    and depending on the reactivity of the various components this second reaction would be more important than the first, especially since O3 is so reactive.

    My guess is that the second reaction occurs in several steps:

    3 O2 --> 2 O3 [driven to the right by lightning, because O3 is unstable and this usually goes to the left]

    CO + O3 --> CO2 + O2 [this one would normally go to the right because the O3 molecule is so unstable and when it decomposes it produces O2 and an atom of nascent oxygen that is extremely reactive]

     I am not saying you are wrong. When there is a stroke of lightning a fantastically large number of molecules are going to participate in what is going on, and surely some CO might be produced. But I would expect the reaction you show would most likely go to the right, as you show, and not go to the left very much.

    I do not know how CO detectors work, and it seems to me to be more likely that whatever is in there might react indiscriminately to ozone and CO. I do not suppose anyone makes ozone detectors, but they might just use the same device as a CO detector.
  • njwebdevguy
    njwebdevguy Member Posts: 33
    edited November 2011

    Its possible the CO detector works by ionization of some element - in a manner similar to some smoke detectors. If thats not the case, digital devices use circuitry that uses pulses of electricity at 3.3 or 5 volt levels to represent ones and no voltage to represent zeros in binary. A sudden pulse of static electricity can easily change a single zero to a one and can cause a digital system to sense a state change. All kinds of digital devices are varyingly sensitive to static electricity, which can cause errors in memory chips or render a computer chip useless in a microsecond. That is why workers in electronics factories wear special "wired" clothing and especially, shoes and socks, and work in special rooms that have *bipolar* ionization machines that make the air conductive enough to discharge all static charges to ground. To do things any differently puts sensitive electronics at great risk.

    Electrically conductive static foam might be used to protect CO detectors because it lets gases pass but shorts static charges in a controlled, resistive manner. It could be used to shield the sensor from static false alarms.. It is also very useful to radio amateurs because its a "stealth" material that absorbs radio waves, especially microwaves. (for example, I used it recently to help improve the accuracy of a log spiral GPS antenna by helping block signals reflected from below while having no effect on signals from above) Its used extensively in commercial microwave dishes to improve the front to back ratio also..
This discussion has been closed.


It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!