A carbon monoxide (CO) alarm should be fitted in any home that contains a fuel burning appliance, like a boiler, and tested regularly to ensure that it is working.
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What is carbon monoxide (CO)?
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colourless, tasteless and odourless gas that can cause harmful and potentially fatal effects.
Carbon monoxide is produced by the incomplete burning of fossil fuels, such as gas. This can occur in inadequately maintained or badly fitted domestic heating appliances, such as boilers and gas fires. If your flue or chimney is blocked, CO will be unable to escape your home if produce, allowing a dangerous concentration to quickly build up.
If carbon monoxide escapes into your home it will cause symptoms that include headaches, breathlessness, drowsiness, vomiting, chest pains, dizziness, vision problems and eventually collapse and loss of consciousness – which can easily be confused with, or misdiagnosed as, flu, fatigue or food poisoning. Be aware of the symptoms and be prepared to react if you recognise them in yourself or others.
Reducing the risk
When was the last time your boiler was serviced? Ensuring that your gas appliances are installed and regularly serviced by Gas Safe Registered engineers is the first step to safety within your home. Landlords are legally obliged to have an annual gas safety check completed in every property they let – and should provide tenants with a copy of the certificate.
Install a carbon monoxide alarm in your home. The sensing technology in a carbon monoxide detector accurately measures the levels of CO and the time of exposure, and is designed to sound before carbon monoxide levels become threatening.
Where to install carbon monoxide (CO) detectors
It’s important to note that your carbon monoxide detector will not detect smoke – you will need a separate smoke alarm for this purpose
Carbon monoxide detectors should be installed in every room that contains a fuel burning appliance. You can install them in other rooms to ensure adequate warning is given for occupants in other areas of your home – such as in rooms where people sleep.
Install your detector at a horizontal distance of between 1 and 3m from the potential source. If this is on the ceiling, it should be at the highest point (if you have a sloped ceiling) and at least 30cm from any obstruction, such as light fixtures. If this is on the wall, it should be located approximately 15cm from the ceiling but above any windows or doors.
It is also important to not install your CO detector in the wrong place – this could cause it go off unnecessarily, or not go off when needed. Don’t locate your alarm in the following places:
- In an enclosed space, for example in a cupboard
- Where it can be obstructed, for example by furniture
- Next to a door, window, extractor fan or air vent
- In an area where the temperature may drop below -10°C or exceed 40°C
- Where dirt and dust may block the sensor
- In a damp or humid location, for example in the bathroom or above a sink
- Within 1m of any appliance
Carbon monoxide (CO) safety tips
- Fit an audible carbon monoxide alarm and test it regularly
- Get fuel-burning appliances serviced annually by a Gas Safe Registered engineer
- Keep ventilation ways clear and have flues chimneys swept at least once a year to identify and remove any blockages
- Check that you have enough ventilation in every room, and that air vents are kept clear
- Be aware of the symptoms: headaches, dizziness, nausea, breathlessness, collapsing and loss of consciousness are all signs of CO poisoning
- Key signs of exposure to cabon monoxide: if symptoms clear up when you’re away from home and come back when you return, or if other people in your household experience similar symptoms