Carbon Monoxide can be a threat in any home and this Safety Guide hopefully will help you to avoid falling into its clutches. The cause of the danger is that carbon monoxide is not detectable by our sense of smell and taste but unfortunately this does not prevent it being deadly.

Well maintained gas appliance’s, such as your gas boiler, produce carbon dioxide as a normal part of their operation. This escapes via the boiler flue and in normal operation is completely harmless. If your gas appliance is not regularly maintained it can fall outside its normal operating criteria and rather than producing carbon dioxide it can start to produce carbon monoxide.

The main cause for this is that your gas appliance can not access the required ventilation. Your appliance manufacturer will stipulate a ventilation requirement which ensures that the gas flame receives the right amount of oxygen. Adherence to these requirements, and legislation governing the requirement for ventilation to gas boilers, has led to a gradual reduction in the annual number of fatalities relating to carbon monoxide poisoning.

As previously stated inhalation of carbon monoxide can be fatal as such you should never take risks with this gas. Upon suspecting carbon monoxide in your room, perhaps by a carbon monoxide alarm being triggered, you should immediately vacate the area and ensure that you can access fresh air. This applies to all members of your family, large and small, young and old and particularly the infirm.

As we have stated this silent killer is not detectable and the only way you might gain some advance notice that there is a problem is that if someone in your family starts to exhibit these symptoms:-
* frequent headaches
* loss of balance
* weariness
* upset stomach and sickness

It is a problem that these are common symptoms of other illnesses and this often leads to confusion or delay which can be very serious. As the underlying cause is a ventilation problem and badly maintained gas appliance you should call in a “gas safe” gas appliance engineer to check your home and carry out a service and inspection of any gas appliances you have. You cannot wait a number of days for this and continue to operate your appliances. If the engineer cannot call it until tomorrow then you must switch off all the gas appliances and ensure that you have good ventilation in your home to sweep away any residual toxic gases. The immediate suggestion here would be to open up all the windows in the house for a number of hours to ensure that fresh air reached every area.

Having noted that human beings cannot detect carbon monoxide fortunately there have been developments in the electronics world which means that there are battery operated carbon monoxide detectors available. The best of these emit a very loud alarm upon detecting low levels of carbon monoxide giving you ample opportunity to react, switch off your gas appliance and head for safety.

The best method of avoiding this risk to your family is to have your gas appliances properly maintained on an annual schedule. A gas safe engineer will be trained to look for and check for satisfactory ventilation as well as able to conduct a safety and maintenance review of your gas appliance giving it an appropriate service. The added benefit of this will be that the appliance should be operating efficiently and this will avoid you paying out high gas bills at a time when the unit price of gas is very high.

When your gas engineer first conducts a visual review of your appliances they will look for any discolouration or carbon deposits which are good indications of incomplete combustion. Another signal they look for is that the pilot light on your gas appliance burns with a yellow colouration, typically you would expect to see a blue colour.

If you decide you want to purchase a carbon monoxide alarm there are a couple of features you must look for. Mains powered detectors obviously have a continuous power supply but they are fixed in place. If you go for a portable battery detector make sure that the battery has a long life. It is possible to overlook that the battery is running there and this problem would be exacerbated if the batteries run out every six months. The primary feature that you want in an alarm is a loud siren, you might be asleep when the detector is triggered and you each to be woken so that you can vacate the property.

If you peruse your electronic detector notice a “test” button which allows you to test the alarm regularly. This is recommended by the manufacturers and should be carried out by the householder on a monthly basis. You should note that this test will test the condition of the battery and its ability to power the speaker or siren. It is not possible to test the detector for its ability to identify the presence of carbon monoxide gas.

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