During the winter, most of us become concerned with insulating our homes in order to reduce heating bills and protect ourselves from the cold outdoors. However, with our homes tightly sealed and the heating blazing away, there can be a risk of carbon monoxide exposure. Carbon monoxide gas can’t be seen, tasted or smelt but can quickly build to lethal levels in a short period of time. Carbon monoxide kills quickly and without much warning and therefore it’s important to ensure you have working alarms fitted in your home in order to keep your family safe.
What is carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide is produced by the incomplete burning of fuels including Gas, Oil, LPG, Wood & Coal; this typically occurs when appliances are incorrectly fitted, badly repaired or insufficiently maintained. It can also occur if flues, chimneys or vents are blocked.
Signs that you may have a carbon monoxide leak in your home include:
– Lazy yellow or orange flames on appliances (instead of crisp blue ones)
– Dark staining on or around your appliance
– Pilot lights that regularly blow out
– A build-up of condensation on the inside of your windows
Old or faulty appliances should be immediately replaced or fixed by a gas safe registered engineer
Signs of carbon monoxide poisoning
The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning bear a resemblance to food poisoning or flu and thus it’s not uncommon for them to go undiagnosed. Symptoms include:
• Nausea or vomiting
• Shortness of breath
• Blurred vision
• Loss of consciousness
There are some useful ways of determining whether your symptoms are due to flu or indeed the result of carbon monoxide poisoning
• Your symptoms only occur when you are in your home
• Your symptoms are alleviated, even disappear when you leave home but then promptly reappear when you return
• Other people, even pets, in your home are experiencing the same symptoms
If you believe you are experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning this is what you should do:
Get fresh air immediately, open doors and windows, turn off your appliances or leave the house
Visit your doctor or hospital, tell them you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning and ask them to confirm it by a blood or breath test
Call a Gas Safe registered engineer to inspect your appliances
Protecting yourself & your family from Carbon Monoxide
The easiest way to protect your home from carbon monoxide is to fit an alarm. Alarms are cheap and effective and every home should have one – it could save your life! A carbon monoxide alarm looks similar to a smoke alarm and can be easily and quickly fitted by a gas engineer.
You can even purchase an alarm from a DIY store or supermarket and fit it yourself, just make sure it’s stamped with the ‘British Standards Kitemark’ or equivalent. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for fitting and testing the alarm.
Correct positioning of the alarm is very important. If you only have one alarm, it is recommended it is positioned near the sleeping area of the home, where you are likely to hear it even while you are asleep. Even better, is to have an alarm positioned above or beside every fuel burning appliance in your home.
Remember to test your alarm regularly.
While an alarm will alert you to a carbon monoxide leak it is no substitute for annual servicing and safety checks carried out by a qualified Gas Safe registered engineer. Your technician will thoroughly clean your appliances and test for the presence of carbon monoxide.
All fuel burning appliances, including gas water heaters and dryers should also be checked to ensure they are correctly vented to the outside of your home.