Now's the ideal time to talk about the importance of carbon monoxide alarms, when a home’s central heating, fire and stove are used the most frequently.
The discussion is more prevalent now after the recent government announcement that carbon monoxide alarms should now not only be fitted in rooms of a private rental property that has any kind of fuel-burning appliance but additionally gas boilers, gas fires and gas stoves as well.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is known as the silent killer, a toxic gas that’s colourless, odourless and tasteless that's created when fuel is not burned completely in a fire or boiler due to a lack of oxygen. Sometimes the poisonous carbon monoxide is able to escape into the air.
It's very easy for someone to be suffering from the effects of CO without even knowing it. Indeed, according to statistics, carbon monoxide poisoning is said to cause around 20 deaths per year in the UK. Common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include dizziness, headaches and shortness of breath.
If a property is completely electric-powered then you're not legally required to have carbon monoxide alarms. It’s only when there’s a fuel-burning (gas, LPG, oil, wood) appliance or gas boiler.
What are carbon monoxide alarms and what do they do?
As we mentioned, carbon monoxide isn’t referred to as the ‘silent killer’ for nothing and having CO alarms installed was always a very wise option. However new legislation means it is now a legal requirement.
Firstly, it’s important to highlight that a standard smoke alarm is unable to detect carbon monoxide – they’re great for detecting smoke, but totally useless when it comes to doing the same with a gas leaking into the air such as carbon monoxide.
A dedicated CO alarm on the other hand has a chemical inside linked to its electrodes which reacts when it comes into contact with CO which sets off the alarm.
You can also purchase combined alarms that function as both a smoke alarm and carbon monoxide alarm, so consider these as an option as it may well be a better financial choice if you're looking to install new smoke alarms as well.
Types of CO alarms
When selecting the type of carbon monoxide alarm, there’s a few choices to fit with your preferences and the set-up of your property.
These types of alarms are ideal for a long-standing defence against potential CO leaks. Often wired into the property’s lighting circuit, they also have long-life lithium batteries as a peace-of-mind back-up in case there’s a power cut to the mains.
You can also purchase a combined optical smoke and carbon monoxide alarm. This means that they have the components to detect both smoke and CO gas leaks.
With sealed battery alarms the whole unit needs to be replaced when the battery is depleted. They can have a lifespan of 10 years and the alarm will beep when the battery is close to running out, alerting the tenant.
You’ll need to replace the batteries every two to three years if you have this type of carbon monoxide alarm, though it will still have a finite lifetime of between five and 10 years. Alarms with replaceable batteries are generally cheaper than sealed battery ones, but of course you will need to buy replacement batteries as and when required.
You could also go down the smart CO detector route, where tenants of the property download the required app and will then be alerted if dangerous levels of carbon monoxide are detected via not only sounding the alarm, but with a message to the smart phone too.
Install a carbon monoxide alarm in every room that qualifies
Well, the government's extension the current legislation requires that CO alarms are placed in every room that has a solid fuel-burning appliance or gas boiler, fire or stove. In terms of actual placement, CO alarms must installed high-up in the same room as the potential source of carbon monoxide, at a recommended distance of15cm from the ceiling. It should also be at least one metre away from boilers, cookers and fires - and it mustn't be directly above a source of heat or steam either.
Although you can install the alarms yourself, we do recommend paying the extra to get a professional to come in and do the job for you, especially if you're planning to for mains-powered alarms.