While we encourage draught-proofing and insulation to make our homes more comfortable and energy efficient, it is critical that there is adequate ventilation, especially if you’re using an appliance that needs oxygen to burn, such as a gas fire, boiler, gas stove, wood-burning stove or open fire. All of these need a surprising amount of air for combustion to happen efficiently. Air only contains 20% oxygen so appliances need a large volume to make sure they get the oxygen they need. Otherwise the combustion will be incomplete resulting in carbon monoxide which as you will be aware is very dangerous and can be a killer.
What is carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odourless, colourless, tasteless by-product from burning fuel for cooking or heating. When it is breathed in, it combines with the haemoglobin in your blood. The haemoglobin transports oxygen from your lungs to the cells that need it to generate energy, and if it’s busy carrying carbon monoxide it can’t take up the oxygen. As a consequence victims of carbon monoxide poisoning can gradually become drowsy and confused, until they lose consciousness and eventually die. Lethal levels of carbon monoxide can build up quickly or accumulate slowly over time. Sometimes the symptoms can be confused with other chronic fatigue illnesses so it is important to be aware of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and know when to consider this as a possible cause of the symptoms. There’s more information about it on the NHS website.
What sort of carbon monoxide detector should I choose?
There is a wide range of products on the market and it can be confusing to know what sort is appropriate. The best kinds are the ones that are wired into the mains along with smoke and heat detectors, but these are only fitted in modern properties. If you’re fitting a battery operated one, there are two types: ones that you have to insert batteries into, and ones that come with batteries already inserted. The ones you put the batteries in yourself are cheaper, but you have to remember to replace the batteries yourself every time they run out. The ones with batteries incorporated are more expensive but you can rest assured that the carbon monoxide detector will continue to operate over its lifetime of 10 years.
Which? did a thorough survey of carbon monoxide detectors and found that a shocking proportion did not work at all or did not work properly. There are also some carbon monoxide detectors that change colour but since one of the symptoms of poisoning is drowsiness, and since a lot of carbon monoxide poisonings occur after the victim has gone to sleep, what you need is a detector with a big loud alarm to wake you up, not something that you might or might not notice if it changes colour!
The conclusion from Which? was that a reliable branded carbon monoxide detector with batteries incorporated was the safest one to purchase. There are a lot on the market but we’ve selected this Kidde model as being safe, reliable, and mid-price range.
What are the detector’s response times?
This Kidde Carbon Monoxide alarm meets response time requirements as follows:
At 50ppm, the unit must alarm within 60 – 90 minutes
At 100ppm, the unit must alarm within 10 – 40 minutes
At 300ppm, the unit must alarm within 3 minutes.
How do I remember when I’ve had my carbon monoxide detector for 10 years and the batteries might run out?
This Kidde 10LLDCO Carbon Monoxide Alarm will give 10 years of continuous operation. Once its time is up it will annoyingly chirp twice every 30 seconds and the red LED light will flash twice in order to alert you to the fact that it has expired.
What should I do if the alarm goes off?
1/ Keep calm and open all doors and windows. Turn off all fuel-burning appliances.
2/ If the alarm continues to sound, even after being reset, (where appropriate) then evacuate the premises, alerting other occupants to the risk. Leave doors and windows open and don’t go back in until the property has been checked.
3/ Get medical help for anyone suffering the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning and advise that CO inhalation is suspected.
4/ Call Gas Safe Emergency Services 0800 111999 or your local Gas Safe Registered Engineer.
Never start the source of a carbon monoxide problem until it has been corrected. Never ignore the alarm! It’s not like a bit of burnt toast setting off the smoke detector! Pressing the test / retest button will silence the alarm. If the CO condition that caused the alarm to go off in the first place continues, then the alarm will go off again. If the unit goes off again within six minutes it is sensing high levels of carbon monoxide which can quickly become a dangerous situation.