Does a Carbon Monoxide Detector Detect Gas?

Will a Carbon Monoxide alarm detect gas leaks? Carbon Monoxide detectors will only be activated by the presence of carbon monoxide gas (CO), which is the result of incomplete combustion. CO can be released by faulty fuel-burning appliances, such as gas stoves, boilers, and fire places. Carbon monoxide detectors will not detect gas leaks involving the natural gas (NG) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) which fuel household appliances, such as boilers.

Faulty gas boilers can release CO, while gas leaks are caused by damaged pipes
A carbon monoxide alarm will not detect gas leaks

Why has my CO alarm not gone off during a gas leak?

An odorant is added to LPG and NG gas supplied to homes, because the gases are highly flammable and explosive. The unpleasant, sulphur-like smell is designed to alert occupiers to any leaks. Many people worry that there is a problem with their CO detectors when, even though they can smell gas, their CO alarm has not gone off.

However, in these scenarios, the CO alarm is not faulty. The detectors in these devices are only triggered by carbon monoxide, which is released by faulty fuel burning appliances. Carbon monoxide is colourless and has no smell, and therefore cannot be detected by humans, unlike a gas leak. Ensure your CO alarm is in good working order by pressing the ‘test’ button regularly. You should also check that the alarm is still ‘in date’ (CO alarms usually need replacing between 7 and 10 years after installation).

Carbon Monoxide alarm will not detect gas leaks
A digital CO alarm will display current CO levels at all times

How can I protect my family from carbon monoxide gas?

Carbon Monoxide has no colour, smell, or taste, but can kill within minutes of exposure. CO is a byproduct of incomplete combustion within faulty gas burning appliances, so there is no way to add an odorant to this deadly gas. The only way to detect Carbon Monoxide is with a CO detector. To protect your family from CO poisoning:

For more information about the dangers of Carbon Monoxide, and what to do if you are being exposed, read ‘Do I need a Carbon Monoxide alarm?’.

A carbon monoxide alarm can’t detect gas leaks, so how can a gas leak be detected?

Gas leaks can be incredibly dangerous, due to the explosive and flammable nature of component gases. While the strong smell added to these gases is designed to alert occupiers of the leak, this is unlikely to wake you if you are asleep. If you wish to protect your family against leaks of unburned gases, install a specialist gas detector in your home.

What to do if there is a gas leak in your home

If you smell gas in your home, it is likely that there is a gas leak. This could be in your home, or a neighbouring property. Open all windows and doors to dilute the concentrations of gas in the property. Do not light cigarettes or matches, or turn on any electrical devices. If possible, turn off the gas meter to stop more gas from entering, and alert neighbours to do the same until the source of the leak has been professionally identified.

Evacuate the property, and once outside the property, call your local GDN’s emergency number (Gas Distribution Network) as soon as possible.

CO Detectors and ‘False Alarms’

CO detector false alarmsCO detectors, or carbon monoxide alarms, are essential for the detection of a deadly gas, carbon monoxide (CO). This gas cannot be seen, tasted or smelt and is only detected with the use of co detectors. It is produced through the incomplete combustion of fuel, such as gas, wood, coal and oil.

Before we go on to look at CO detector false alarms here is some advice on what you should do if your alarm goes off.

What to do when your carbon monoxide alarm is going off

If your CO detector is chirping do not assume that it is a false alarm, remember carbon monoxide can’t be seen, tasted or smelt. You should assume that there is CO present and should follow these steps to ensure your safety.

  • Stay calm, open doors and windows to increase ventilation
  • Where safe to do so, turn off any fuel-burning appliance
  • Leave the premises and notify other occupants of the potential carbon monoxide leak (you should also notify any occupant of premises adjoined to your home as CO can seep through walls and floors
  • Call Gas Emergency Services 0800 111 999 or a local Gas Safe Registered Engineer to check for the source of carbon monoxide
  • Get medical help for anyone suffering from symptoms of CO poisoning

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning

The main symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are:

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms: persistent headaches

Persistent Headaches

Having persistent dull headaches and tension type headaches.

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms: dizziness

Dizziness

Having waves of dizziness or feeling light headed and off balance.

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms: nausea/vomiting

Nausea / Vomiting

Feeling like you need to be sick (nausea) and actually being sick (vomiting).

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms: stomach pains

Stomach Pains

Pains in your stomach or lower abdomen, sometimes accompanied by diarrhoea.

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms: difficulty breathing

Difficulty Breathing

Sudden shortness of breath or difficulty breathing (dyspnoea).

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms: tiredness

Tiredness

Having no energy or feeling tired, sleepy, lethargic and sluggish.

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms: sudden collapse

Sudden Collapse

Sudden collapse, seizures or loss of consciousness.

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms: confusion

Confusion

Confusion, difficulty concentrating and becoming easily irritated.

What causes CO detector false alarms?

A false alarm is when your CO detector alarms and where no carbon monoxide is detected by your engineer. There could be several reasons for this:

  • The carbon monoxide detected did not come from your own appliances but may have seeped through the walls or floor from a neighbour. Check if your neighbours have fuel-burning appliances that might emit carbon monoxide Carbon monoxide might escape from chimney stacks allowing carbon monoxide to enter your premises via a joint loft space.
  • The replace-by date may have been exceeded. CO alarms become erratic once expired. This is the most common reason for false alarms.
  • Excessive moisture from a bathroom may set off your CO alarm. CO alarms should not be installed in areas with excessive steam.
  • Lead acid battery chargers produce hydrogen gas which sets off CO detectors. Keep this in mind if you are charging your caravan/boat battery at home.
  • Freshly screeded floors emit a gas that sets off carbon monoxide alarms.
  • The carbon monoxide alarm that you have installed may not be suitable for the type of premises, for example if it is installed in a caravan, tent, boat or living quarters of a horsebox you will need to ensure that your alarm is Kitemarked to BS EN50291-2. Alarms tested to BS EN50291-1 are only for use in home environments and are not suitable for camping and caravanning.
  • On rare occasions if here is a heavy smoker in a room that is poorly ventilated the CO from smoking may trigger an alarm.
  • Homes that are adjacent to very busy roads may experience higher levels of CO in the home when windows are open as traffic fumes may enter the room and set your alarm off.
  • The sound that your alarm is making may not be the alarm sound to alert you that there are dangerous levels of CO present. Most alarms have several audible sounds to indicate things such as low battery warning or that there is a fault with the alarm. When you install an alarm read the user manual and get to know what the different sounds indicate. Keep the manual safe so that you can refer to it should the alarm go off.

Buying a CO detector

You should have a carbon monoxide detector in every room where there is a solid fuel burning appliance. Only chose CO detectors that have met the rigorous testing standards of the European standard EN50291. That way you will have peace of mind that this vital alarm has been manufactured and tested to the highest standards.

If you are looking for a CO detector that you can also take on holiday, for caravanning, camping or using on a boat look out for ones that are Kitemarked to BS EN50291-2 such as the Kidde 7CO. If you would like a detector that gives you a visual display of CO levels, we recommend the Kidde 7DCO.

Kidde Carbon Monoxide Alarm - 7DCO / 7DCOC
Kidde Carbon Monoxide Alarm - 7DCO / 7DCOC
  • FREE delivery
  • Product Life: 10 years
  • Battery: replaceable AA alkaline batteries included
  • Warranty: 10 year warranty
  • Displays CO levels from 10ppm
  • Peak Level Memory - recalls highest CO levels
  • Ideal for domestic use and camping, caravans & boats
  • Kitemarked to BS EN50291-1 and BS EN50291-2
  • Also suitable for the 2022 Welsh legislation
£17.87 ex VAT
£21.44 inc VAT
Buy Now
                                        

If you are unsure if you have the correct carbon monoxide alarm installed our customer care team are here to help. You can call them on 0800 612 6537 or email support@safelincs.co.uk.

Angie Dewick-Eisele

Director

Angie Dewick-Eisele is co-founder of Safelincs Ltd, one of the leading fire safety providers in the UK. Angie was Marketing Manager for many years and as Director is these days responsible for Content Management.

Carbon monoxide poisoning: What are the Symptoms?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is often referred to as ‘The Silent Killer’ because you can’t smell, hear or see it. It is a highly toxic gas which can have devastating consequences on your health. With over 4000 people attending A&E departments due to carbon monoxide poisoning in England each year, knowing the symptoms could save your life.

The Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide can cause severe symptoms and even death if not detected quickly. CO poisoning symptoms are very similar to that of a common cold or flu, which is a big reason why mild symptoms can also be mistaken for a hangover. Protect yourself and others from carbon monoxide by looking out for these symptoms:

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning

Effects of Carbon Monoxide Exposure

Severe Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Severe carbon monoxide poisoning may lead to long-term neurological problems, with disturbances in memory, language, cognition, mood and behaviour. This causes damage to the basal ganglia, which may lead to a movement disorder resembling Parkinson’s disease.

Delayed deterioration in neurological condition is an unusual feature of severe carbon monoxide poisoning. This can occur any time from a few days to as long as five to six weeks after the initial exposure to carbon monoxide. The reason for this is not entirely clear.

Long-term Carbon Monoxide Exposure

Chronic exposure to lower levels of carbon monoxide may go unrecognised. The symptoms include milder versions of those seen in acute CO poisoning. Headache, nausea, dizziness, light-headedness, fatigue and sleepiness, difficulty concentrating and memory problems, as well as changes in mood are all symptoms of this.

People are often unable to identify exactly what is the matter despite being aware that something is wrong. They may attribute the problems to overwork, stress or depression. If symptoms disappear while away at work and reappear on returning home, or if other people in the same premises develop similar symptoms, it may become more obvious that there is an environmental cause.

Removing the source of carbon monoxide results in most people recovering from chronic low-level carbon monoxide exposure. However, it can also lead to the brain being starved from oxygen. This can have devastating short term and long term effects.

Treatment for CO Poisoning

Treatment of carbon monoxide poisoning involves immediate removal of the carbon monoxide source, and administration of 100% oxygen together with general supportive medical care.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is sometimes advocated for severe cases of carbon monoxide poisoning. This involves giving your lungs much more oxygen than would be possible by breathing pure oxygen at normal air pressure. It has been suggested that this may improve the long-term neurological outcome, although it remains controversial. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a specialised technique which is only available in a few centres. It may also be associated with complications of its own and it is not used routinely.

Protect Yourself from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

  1. Be in the know about carbon monoxide. Would you be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning? Learn how to spot the dangers, signs and symptoms of CO poisoning and help to educate those around you. Findings by the Gas Safe Register in 2019 revealed that only one in five respondents said they would be aware of a carbon monoxide leak in their homes if they felt unwell.
  2. Have your gas or solid fuel appliances serviced regularly. According to the latest UK inspection figures from Gas Safe Register, 5.5 million homes in the UK have unsafe gas appliances. When did you last have your appliance checked? If you rent, your landlord must have a gas safety certificate for all gas appliances to comply with regulations.
  3. Install a carbon monoxide alarm where required. It is recommended that a CO alarm be installed in every room in the house containing an appliance that could leak carbon monoxide gas. Is your home covered? Check with vulnerable friends, family or neighbours to see if they need help installing a carbon monoxide alarm. If you rent and you have a gas appliance, your landlord is legally required to provide a working carbon monoxide alarm.

Who is Most at Risk?

Lower income households are more at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, recent studies have shown. Research carried out by the National Energy Action charity and the Gas Safety Trust found that 35% of low income and vulnerable households surveyed exceeded the 10ppm threshold for carbon monoxide levels, indicating levels of carbon monoxide that are harmful with prolonged exposure. This can have adverse effects on the body and brain.

Over 60s were also found to be particularly vulnerable to CO poisoning. This could be attributed to the likelihood of them spending more time at home and feeling the cold, resulting in regular appliance use to stay warm. Elderly people, or those with respiratory problems, are also more at risk from the effects of carbon monoxide. They become ill more quickly, with symptoms being similar to those of flu or food poisoning, a headache, nausea and dizziness. These symptoms are usually attributed to those common illnesses rather than to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Headache or dizziness is a symptom of co poisoning
Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms can easily be mistaken for flu or a common cold or sickness bug

Other groups shown to be disproportionately affected by CO poisoning include pregnant women, young children, anyone with an existing respiratory condition and elderly people.

Carbon monoxide poisoning information sheet printable download
Download our information sheet and share with relatives or friends

Mel Saunders

Head of Marketing

Mel joined Safelincs in 2020 and leads the content and marketing team.

Are you in danger in your own home? Join the fight for a Gas Safe Nation

In light of the Covid 19 pandemic, safety is at the forefront of everyone’s mind. We all know that hand washing and basic hygiene are an essential part of life in 2020, but how many of us can be absolutely sure that our homes are gas safe? With Gas Safety Week celebrating its tenth year in 2020, it’s time to make sure that you, your friends and family are safe in your own homes.

Protect family and help them to get gas safe at home
Help loved ones and vulnerable individuals to get gas safe

Are you at risk of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

Do you have a gas fire, gas boiler or gas oven? Frighteningly, statistics published by Gas Safety Week show that 1 in 2 gas fires inspected by a Gas Safe Engineer are unsafe. Carbon Monoxide emissions from a poorly fitted, poorly ventilated or faulty gas appliance can be deadly or have severe side effects. Carbon monoxide is odourless and colourless meaning that without a detector, it is very difficult to detect its presence.

There are 2 simple steps to follow to protect yourselves, your family and friends:

  1. Have your gas appliances checked and serviced every year by a Gas Safe Engineer. You can find a gas safety engineer near you here. Check to see if loved ones and vulnerable friends or neighbours have a gas safety certificate that is up to date.
  2. Install an audible carbon monoxide alarm and make sure your friends and relatives have one too. Check that they are marked EN50291 and display the British Standards’ Kitemark. You can find a great selection here that are suitable for use at home.

Common cold or Carbon monoxide poisoning?

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are much like those of a common cold or flu to begin with but can ultimately lead to a coma and death. Headaches, nausea, dizziness, a sore throat or dry cough are all common complaints, but could be as a result of exposure to CO gas. If friends, family or loved ones complain of these symptoms, seem confused or are drowsy and are having trouble breathing, you need to be alert. If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, open all the windows and doors and leave your home immediately. Turn off any appliances that are in use and turn the gas off at the mains if you can. Call the Gas Emergency Services on 0800 111 999 as soon as you can. You should seek medical help straight away if you think that anyone in your household has carbon monoxide poisoning.

Identify symptoms of CO poisoning

Gas safety and Covid 19

There may be some nervousness about engineers visiting your home due to the spread of infection during the current pandemic. Tradesman have strict guidelines to follow set out by the government, but if you are worried you should check what measures your Gas Safe Engineer will be putting in place when he or she visits your home. It is important to proceed with your annual check if you can as you could be putting your family in danger of carbon monoxide poisoning. With some Covid 19 restrictions still in place, and many people working remotely, we are all spending more time at home. It is now as important as ever to make your home a safe place for you and your family.

Good carbon monoxide detector to use at home
Digital Display Carbon Monoxide Alarm 10 Yr Life – Kidde 5DCO

Protect loved ones with a carbon monoxide detector

If you have vulnerable or elderly friends, relatives or neighbours, why not give them peace of mind and help them to install a carbon monoxide detector? Carbon monoxide can travel through adjoining walls and so even if you are absolutely sure that all the appliances in your home are gas safe, a detector is the only way to have complete peace of mind. Many detectors have a long life and so remain reliable for long periods and with options for audio and visual cues, there is an alarm suitable for everyone. All of our Kidde battery-operated alarms are available for FREE delivery, so you can have them delivered directly to loved ones for no extra cost and with free standing options available and the battery included on many models, they can be up and running immediately on arrival. Why not browse the range here?

Gas Safety Week challenges us all to think about making our homes as safe from the dangers of gas as possible. For more information and advice, head to the gas safety week website. Or, for more information on CO alarms, please contact our customer care team on 0800 612 6537.

Mel Saunders

Head of Marketing

Mel joined Safelincs in 2020 and leads the content and marketing team.

Is Your Holiday Home Protected From The ‘Silent Killer’? Carbon Monoxide Responsibilities For Accommodation Providers

When someone books a holiday, what features do they look for? Maybe a hot tub, fire pit or log burner for that little bit of luxury? A carbon monoxide detector might not be top of the list, but with carbon monoxide (CO), or the ‘Silent Killer’ responsible for around 60 accidental deaths every year in England and Wales, ensuring your holiday accommodation is CO safe should be a priority. Did you know that as a holiday home owner in England, you have a legal responsibility to comply with regulations relating to carbon monoxide safety? Holiday-makers want to have peace of mind that their safety is a top priority when booking a holiday, and carbon monoxide safety is no exception.

Why is carbon monoxide dangerous?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a highly poisonous gas with no smell or taste and can be difficult to detect without the aid of a carbon monoxide detector. Symptoms such as tiredness, shortness of breath, nausea and headaches can be easily mistaken for flu or food poisoning. However, after exposure to high levels for 2 hours, the person may become unconscious and could die from this poisonous gas. With such sudden consequences, early detection is critical.

Accommodation providers: Your responsibilities

CO gas is produced by the incomplete burning of fuels containing carbon, for example coal, wood, gas or charcoal. A build-up in emissions of CO gas can come from:
• Faulty gas appliances
• Fuel burning stoves, open fires or BBQs used in poorly ventilated areas
• Running a car engine in an enclosed space.

Holiday Home Owners, like landlords, have a responsibility to ensure that their properties are compliant with the regulations Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015. These regulations state that a carbon monoxide detector should be fitted in any room that has a solid fuel burning appliance such as a log burner or open fire. Whilst not a legal requirement, it is also advisable to install a detector in any room with a gas or oil burning appliance such as a boiler or oven. You should also check and log all smoke and CO alarms on change-over day for added peace on mind.

The maintenance of gas appliances in all properties is also of paramount importance. The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 outlines the legal duties of self-catering accommodation providers to ensure the safety of any guests. All gas appliances should be installed and checked annually by a Gas Safe Engineer. Accommodation providers need to ensure adequate ventilation throughout the holiday accommodation. This is of particular importance in caravans, lodges and tents or glamping pods.

Provide information for your tenants

With frequent change-over of tenants and short-term occupancy, it may also help to provide a factsheet with guidance on carbon monoxide safety. Information such as how to locate and turn off the mains gas supply, what to do if the carbon monoxide alarm goes off or who to contact in an emergency may prove invaluable. Some tenants will be unfamiliar with gas appliances and general advice on how to use them safely could be useful.

Furthermore, unlike some smoke alarms that are prone to false triggers, a CO alarm is very unlikely to go off unless it detects carbon monoxide. False alarms are very unlikely and residents should be advised to act immediately and assume it is an emergency situation. Many people are not aware of the CO emissions from BBQs and camp fires. Cosy fires and family BBQs can prove deadly if emissions are allowed to accumulate in a tent, glamping pod or caravan. Campsites or caravan sites are advised to alert campers to the possible dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning from these activities.

Confidence in the UK holiday market

With the trend in UK ‘staycations’ looking set to continue into next year, ensuring the safety of guests in all accommodation will only help to increase confidence in UK holidays. Families should have peace of mind that their safety is of the utmost importance. There are many options for carbon monoxide alarms including combined or separate smoke and CO alarms, audible and visual cues and fixed or portable units. The requirement of each accommodation type varies depending on size, risks and structure.

The Kidde 7DCO alarm is a great solution for most providers as it is Kitemarked as safe for use in all domestic situations as well as in caravans, boats and tents. Its 10-year lifespan, digital display and option for free-standing or wall-mounting makes it a reliable and flexible option. And, with readings taken every 15 seconds and displayed on the digital panel, guests would have complete peace of mind that they are protected from the ‘silent killer’.

A suitable carbon monoxide alarm
Digital Display Carbon Monoxide Alarm 10 Yr Warranty – Kidde 7DCO

If you are an accommodation provider and would like more information, please contact our customer care team on 0800 612 6537.

Mel Saunders

Head of Marketing

Mel joined Safelincs in 2020 and leads the content and marketing team.