Carbon Monoxide (co) and Carbon Monoxide alarms

Carbon monoxide poisoning

We are all aware of the dangers from fire or smoke in the home, but there is another risk that some of us might not be aware about – carbon monoxide or co. According to statistics from CO gas safety there were 28 deaths because of unintentional CO poisoning in the uk in 2011.

There were hundreds of non-fatal poisoning incidents. The real figures will undoubtedly be higher due to lack of proper reporting. There were almost as many incidents with people using solid fuel as there were with gas,  but because the number of people using solid fuel is far fewer, solid fuels represent a much greeter danger if things go wrong.

How does co poisoning happen?

Co is a gas which is released by the incomplete burning of any fuels. The poisoning happens when the gas is inhaled. You cannot see or smell CO gas, so installing a CO alarm is critical to make you aware of any potential problem.  The effects of low level CO poisoning are: flu like symptoms, generally feeling unwell, headaches, nausea and vomiting. Higher levels of CO will kill quickly and without warning.

When we burn any solid fuel lots of CO is produced along with many other products of combustion. This in its self is completely normal as all the smoke and gasses should pass straight out the top of a chimney. However if the chimney is blocked or too porous, the appliance faulty or if the ventilation to the fire inadequate,  CO gas may enter your property.

This is just one of the many reasons to use a registered chimney sweep, at present there is no legal requirement for someone calling themselves a chimney sweep to under take any training or be registered with any organisation. You would expect a gas engineer to be trained and registered, and its just as important that you chimney sweep is to. Please use a member of the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps or the National association of  Chimney Sweeps. They have been properly trained and work to a code of practice, many will be HETAS installers and will provide an insurance approved certificate after every job.

What can you do to protect against CO?

  • Get your chimney swept regularly by a fully trained registered chimney sweep
  • Use a HEATAS registered engineer for solid fuel installations
  • Fit an approved document j of building regs CO alarm
  • Ensure you have a suitable terminal on top of your chimney
  • Correct ventilation to the appliance
  • Carbon monoxide alarms

Carbon monoxide alarms

Carbon monoxide alarms should comply with BS EN50291:2001 and be powered by a battery designed to operate for the working life of the alarm. A carbon monoxide alarm should be fitted in the same room as the appliance.

Document J of building regulations implies that where a new or replacement solid fuel appliance is installed a carbon monoxide alarm should be provided in the same room. We recommend updating and fitting a carbon monoxide alarm even if your solid fuel appliance was installed before this regulation for safety and peace of mind.

When fitting a carbon monoxide alarm it should be placed (a) on the ceiling, at least 300 mmm from any wall, or if it is located on a wall as high up as possible (above any doors and windows, but not within 150 mm of the ceiling; and (b) between 1 m and 3 m from the appliance. A carbon monoxide alarm should always be visible.