Carbon Monoxide (CO) is an invisible, odourless and tasteless gas produced by any fossil fuel-burning device such as gas, coal, coke, oil, wood and charcoal.
Properly installed appliances are designed to burn fuel efficiently and produce little waste CO. Incorrectly installed, poorly maintained or poorly ventilated cooking and heating devices are the main sources of too much CO being released. Exposure to high indoor levels can be fatal, while exposure to lower levels can result in symptoms that resemble flu, viral infections or food poisoning. Headache, tiredness, difficulty in thinking clearly and feeling sick are the most common symptoms. Drowsiness, dizziness, shortness of breath and chest pains may also be experienced. Prolonged exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide over a long period of time can cause serious long lasting harm to health. Audible CO alarms can be used to detect when CO reaches levels which may be hazardous.
- Sensors in CO alarms don’t last forever – check the manufacturer’s quoted lifetime for your CO alarm and replace it no later than the recommended to ensure you continue to have adequate protection.
- Before buying a CO alarm always check it is British Standard EN 50291 and carries a British or European approval mark, such as a Kitemark.
- If you have an old CO alarm consider replacing it. Standards for the performance of CO alarms have become more stringent over recent years and so older alarms may not react as quickly as newer alarms.
- Check the manufacturer’s recommendations about how you can test your alarm to ensure that the unit and the batteries are in good condition.
- Ensure that your CO alarm is correctly located – check the instructions from the manufacturer.
- CO alarms are a useful back-up precaution, but they are not a substitute for the proper installation and maintenance of combustion heating appliances. For gas appliances by law this should be a Gas Safe registered engineer, for solid fuel appliances the approved body is HETAS, and for oil appliances the approved body in OFTEC.
Ensure you have all your heating and cooking appliances serviced annually Ensure there is adequate ventilation in your home Install a carbon monoxide detector as per manufacturer’s recommendations Test the alarm as per manufacturer’s instructions.