The need-to-know on CO safety

Published:  24 August, 2017

With Gas Safety Week right around the corner, it’s vital to raise awareness around carbon monoxide (CO) safety as there is a dangerous lack of education on what this means in practical terms.

Installers are often faced with misconceptions from homeowners who may have been ill-informed, or have found cheap (but inferior) alarms online. In answer to this, Adrian Keats at Honeywell’s Home Safety business breaks down the need-to-know facts.

Carbon monoxide safety

  • • CO poisoning is extremely dangerous. In mild cases, sufferers exhibit flu like symptoms, but severe incidents can prove fatal
  • • The NHS estimates that 50 people are killed by carbon monoxide poisoning each year, with at least 4,000 treated in hospital
  • • Despite these statistics, only around a third of UK homes have a CO alarm, with many homeowners incorrectly assuming their smoke alarm would also detect a carbon monoxide leak.
  • • It pays to invest in a high-quality CO alarm. A recent Which? survey found that as many as one in five CO alarms were not properly approved to the relevant standard and could be unreliable. Always look for the BSI Kitemark, and EN50291 certification
  • • A CO alarm should be placed in every room which contains a fuel burning appliance – whether that’s solid fuel or gas. There should also be an alarm in any bedrooms located above these areas
  • • Colour change spot CO detectors are not an adequate solution. They produce no audible alarm, meaning alerts could be missed. These also need replacing every three to six months, making them inefficient both in terms of cost and maintenance
  • Siting

  • • To find detailed siting recommendations for CO alarms, check EN 50292, a guide on selection, installation, use and maintenance for residential carbon monoxide alarms
  • • Ideally, the alarm should be positioned high up in the room typically 30 centimetres from the ceiling, and a metre away from the fuel burning appliance. It can be fixed to a wall or free-standing on a shelf, as long as the positioning requirements are met

Although practising CO safety may seem obvious to experienced installers, it’s vital to bear in mind that the public at large may need guidance. The law may only require an alarm in rooms which feature a solid fuel burning appliance, but in most cases this is not enough – by explaining this to customers, installers can assure

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