As we are getting closer to the caravan season starting again it is worthwhile thinking about how to protect yourself against carbon monoxide poisoning. Early in the camping year the temperatures at night are still chilly and there is a temptation to heat the caravan with the remaining ambers of the BBQ enjoyed earlier or to use the rings of your gas cooker to keep you warm. Both can be lethal. The BBQ, especially at low temperatures, produces large amounts of carbon monoxide which cannot be smelled or tasted. The CO gas renders you quickly unconscious and death can be the consequence.
Heating with your gas rings can also be dangerous. Kidde and one of the UK’s caravan manufacturers did some trials with cookers and partly blocked vents. While normal cooking activity with good ventilation only rose the CO levels in the caravan slightly, badly performing gas jets used in conjunction with oversize pans and and standard ventilation raised CO levels to over 100ppm!!!
When the ventilation was blocked the CO levels rose to 400ppm and the trials had to be abandoned for safety reasons!
Never take a BBQ into a caravan, do not heat your caravan with the gas cooker and always use correctly sized pans with correctly adjusted flames when cooking. Also make sure that your ventilation is working well when cooking with gas.
You should also install a CO alarm. It is important to install smoke alarms and CO alarms that have removable batteries fitted. This ensures that through the winter months when caravans are stored and the temperatures are low the batteries can be removed to prevent them from getting damaged and possibly leaking, causing the alarm to require replacement.
However, special care must be taken to place fresh batteries in the alarms at the start of the next season. Wrap your caravan keys in an envelope with a reminder to take new batteries with you!
The Kidde 900-0233 and 900-0230 CO alarms are good CO alarms that can be used in caravans. They have a 7 year warranty.
The alarm will sound if carbon monoxide is detected however, if you charge your car/caravan batteries inside the caravan, the hydrogen coming off the battery will set off the CO alarms, as the hydrogen behaves similar to CO! Never assume that when the alarm goes off it is a false alarm, always take precautions to investigate the cause and ventilate the caravan.