CO or CO2 ?

A common source of confusion can be the difference between Carbon Monoxide (CO) and Carbon Dioxide (CO2). Both gases are colourless, tasteless and invisible, but the similarity ends there. We have put together the following guide to help you recognise the differences.

Key Characteristics:

CO–     Carbon Monoxide

Carbon Monoxide is produced by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels. CO can be produced by boilers, open fires and vehicles and is very toxic even at low levels. Detection of any level of CO warrants concern and the source should be identified as soon as possible.

In a residential setting Carbon Monoxide is the most pressing concern because levels as low 50ppm will harm you and just 700ppm (parts per million) can be life threatening. Initial symptoms of poisoning include headaches, nausea and breathlessness. The only way to detect CO is by installing a Carbon Monoxide Alarm.

CO2–   Carbon Dioxide

Carbon Dioxide can be produced in a variety of natural ways. CO2 is a natural by-product of combustion and we all exhale it every day. It even has uses as diverse as giving drinks their fizz and extinguishing fires. Carbon Dioxide is not harmful in itself but an excess of CO2 (above 3%) in an enclosed environment can lead to asphyxiation by reducing the level of oxygen available.

Carbon Dioxide detectors are usually used in commercial premises for example breweries or laboratories. Whilst CO2 poisoning is something to be aware of it is unlikely to happen in a home environment.

As you can see, although their names are similar, the dangers posed by each gas are very different. It is important to be aware of the characteristics of each as they can both be harmful. The only way to be sure of staying safe is to make sure you have the appropriate detector fitted wherever you are.