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.

What causes “chirping” and false alarms in smoke alarms?

hoovering-alarmIf your smoke or heat alarm has started its low battery “chirp” in the middle of the night or alarmed falsely with no obvious reason, unfortunately, many people lose faith in their alarms, seeing them as an annoyance rather than essential life saving devices.
False alarms and chirping are often pointing at problems that require attention. There are a number of checks that can be done to help find the cause before seeking further help from the manufacturer or retailer. Below is a step-by-step guide to the possible causes and solutions for false alarms and chirping; however, always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for your exact smoke or heat alarm model. Additional care should be taken with mains powered alarms, as interference with the alarm can cause electrocution.

1) “Correct” alarm for the “correct” area
There are three main types of domestic alarms available on the market:

Ionisation Smoke Alarms – Slightly quicker at detecting fast flaming fires than other technologies but usually only installed in upstairs landing areas. If installed near a kitchen, where the occasional toast might get burned, ionisation alarms can cause false alarms. The installation of this alarm near sources of smoke is one of the key reasons for false alarms in daytime.

Optical Smoke Alarms – Slightly quicker at detecting slow smouldering fires that can originate from upholstery type materials and over-heated wiring. Suitable to be installed in bedrooms, living rooms and downstairs hallways. These are fairly ‘toast-proof’ and can be installed near kitchens (not in kitchens, though).

Heat Alarms – Activate when the temperature inside the room reaches a certain trigger level or if the heat in a room rises very quickly. These are ideal in kitchens and garages, as they do not get triggered by fumes. Please note that a heat alarm only covers a small area, so larger kitchens will require several heat alarms.

All types of alarm will sound in the event of a fire; however, understanding more about each sensor technology helps you to select units that are least likely to cause false alarms. Alarms placed in the wrong location will on the other hand cause false alarms, eg if you have a smoke alarm located in the hallway and this sounds each time you use the toaster or boil vegetables, it is likely that you have an ionisation smoke alarm installed rather than an optical.

2) Optimum position
The user manual for your smoke or heat alarm will provide advice on “locations to avoid” when positioning your alarm on the ceiling. Below are some examples:
– Near fluorescent lights – as electronic “noise” can cause false alarms
– In front of air supply ducts for heating or air conditioning, or near ceiling fans
– Directly above cookers/toasters/kettles (heat alarm) – although heat alarms are designed not to cause false alarms from cooking fumes, they should not be installed directly above cooking appliances
– Within 0.9m (3ft) of the door to a bathroom or shower room (smoke alarm) – steam can cause false alarms

3) Dust and/or Insects
Smoke alarms contain a sensor which is used to detect a fire. Over time, dust can build up or small insects/flies can crawl inside the unit, obstruct the sensor and eventually cause false alarms. Cleaning your alarm helps to remove anything that could be blocking the sensor. Wipe the outside of the alarm with a damp cloth, then using a vacuum nozzle or a hair dryer (set on cold), to suck or blow through the openings of the alarm.

4) Decorating
If decorating, especially sanding, has recently taken place, dust particles or paint fumes could have entered the sensor chamber, causing damage to the unit and therefore causing false alarms. It is recommended to temporarily cover the alarm whilst decorating. Some alarms are supplied with a protective cover, so keep hold of this after installation for any future use. If you suspect decorating may have affected your alarm, try cleaning the unit as described above.

5) Temperature
Smoke alarms have an optimum operating temperature and it is important to ensure that your alarm is not subjected to temperatures above or below these thresholds. Typically, the operating temperature for a smoke alarm is between 0 ˚C to +40 ˚C. If the alarm is positioned where it may experience blasts of hot or cold air e.g. close to a front door, or the ambient room temperature is not constant e.g. in attics, this is when false alarms can occur. It may be necessary to reposition your alarm.

6) Age of the alarm
Each smoke and heat alarm should have a sticker located on the edge or the back of the unit indicating a replace-by date. This is usually ten years after manufacture. If your alarm starts chirping or regularly sounds falsely, it could mean that the alarm is close to, or has reached the end of its life. Check the date to see if the alarm is due to be replaced.

7) Problem with the mains supply?
Mains powered smoke alarms can usually be identified by two LEDs located on the face of the unit. One LED flashes red approximately once a minute to indicate that the unit is operating correctly. The second LED should be constantly green to indicate that mains power is present. If the green LED is not present, this could mean that there is an issue with the mains power getting to the alarm. If needed, advice should be obtained by a qualified electrician.

8) Battery running low
Chirping every 30-40 seconds is generally an indication that the battery is running low. If your smoke or heat alarm has a replaceable battery, try changing the battery for a brandnew one. It is recommended to change the batteries in your smoke and heat alarms every 12 months. Changing your battery before it runs low helps to overcome the annoying chirps at night. Change the batteries when the clocks are changed forward or register for a free email reminder service.

Many smoke and heat alarms are now fitted with a sealed lithium battery, designed to last the life of the alarm. These batteries are not accessible for replacement and so if your alarm starts chirping but has a non-replaceable battery, the alarm may have reached the end of its life. Batteries running low apply to both solely battery powered alarms as well as mains powered units with a back-up battery.

9) Another alarm nearby?
If you have tried all the above and you can still hear chirping, the final check is to see if there is another alarm or device within the same area that could be causing the chirp. It is easy to associate chirping with smoke and heat alarms and forget that other devices e.g. carbon monoxide detectors could also contain a battery that is running low.

Safelincs are happy to provide information regarding your smoke and heat alarms. For more information, you can also visit our Smoke Alarm Help Guides page, or contact our customer services team.

Smoke alarms that beep in the night – a new help guide

Ei156TLH Mains Powered Optical Smoke AlarmMains powered smoke alarms are required whenever a new home is built, a home is extended or materially altered. As they are interlinked they ensure that the alarm is spread through the entire building, notifying you of the fire even when you are in bed. Most mains powered alarms have a back-up battery inside to ensure that the alarms work even if their power supply is interrupted, for example by a blown fuse, which can happen when the fire was started by an electrical fault. Over the years, should either the power supply fail or should the backup battery become flat, the alarms will beep to notify you that there is a problem. As the cold of a night will weaken the backup battery, the warning beeps will usually start at night, which is, of course, a nuisance. However, beeping due to low battery is not the only reason an alarm might beep for and it can be very difficult to work out what has gone wrong. To help our customers, we have therefore created a simple-to-follow help guide for one manufacturer’s products. The reason for picking Ei Electronics’ products is that they are the undisputed market leader in mains powered alarms. Their smoke alarms are found in almost every new or converted home in the UK, so that we focused on their products in this help guide.

Their mains powered smoke alarm series is ‘Aico’ branded and follows the following numbering system

Ei140 series (mains powered with alkaline backup battery which needs changing every year or two)

Ei160 series (mains powered with sealed-in, rechargeable 10 year lithium battery


Within each series, there are three types of detectors ending each with one of the following numbers:

..1 (eg Ei141): Ionisation smoke alarms. Good for fast flaming fires, such as paper and wood. They do, however, have a tendency to false alarm if for example a toast is burned nearby.

..4 (eg Ei144): Heat alarms. Used in kitchens, as these units are insensitive to burnt toast

..6 (eg Ei146): Optical smoke alarms. Less prone to false alarms from burnt toast. Good for smouldering fires such as from soft furnishing

Further helpful information about smoke alarms can be found in our help section.

Replacement smoke alarms can be easily identified on our overview chart showing older smoke alarms models and their replacements.

For Aico/Ei Electronics mains powered smoke alarms we are able to offer dedicated replacement alarms that can be fitted by a home owner without requiring an electrician.

We also offer very detailed further advise about smoke alarm defects and solutions on our forum.

There is also a range of videos showing you step-by-spep how to remove smoke alarms from their bases

CO detectors and ‘false alarms’

By Dr Bernard Thomas, Kidde Safety Europe

Carbon Monoxide (Chemical Symbol is ‘CO’) is a deadly gas, combining three characteristics which make it hard to detect: it is odorless, colourless and has no taste.

In domestic situations it can be generated by any fuel burning appliance. Gas boilers, gas fires, wood burning stoves are just three examples. The generation of carbon monoxide increases if vents are poorly sited, if inadequate ventilation exists, if vents or flues are blocked or if the appliance is burning inefficiently. It is therefore vital that all your fuel burning appliances are regularly serviced. This should be done by a qualified person with “ Gas Safe” accreditation. You should ensure that the Engineer can measure CO levels coming from your appliance. Not all engineers have such instruments.

We recommend that households install CO detectors. Only choose CO alarms that have been tested to the European standard EN50291. The certification to this standard has to be displayed on the packaging by law. Do not be fooled by alarms that state “ Designed to comply with…” as these are usually not independently tested. Alarms properly accredited to the standard have amongst many safety critical features an audible alarm and LED indicators.

The EN50291 standard requires that the printed alarm manual contains information about the dangers of CO, what to do when the alarm sounds and who to contact. Make sure you read the manual when you install the CO alarm and keep it in case the alarm sounds.

What happens if your alarm sounds and what should you do?

If the instrument has gone into alarm you must assume that you have an CO event – remember you are dealing with a gas that you cannot see, smell or taste. An alarm is a very loud sound. If the alarm is just beeping softly at 30 second intervals it is a different warning, such as a low battery warning. (See your manual for details).

All Kidde CO alarms are 100% tested in CO gas at the factory and independently tested by BSI so we stand by the reliability and quality of our products.

People’s reaction to an alarm vary.

Some ignore it, take out the battery and ring our help desk the next day.

The conversation often goes as follows…

Customer: “ Hello, my CO alarm went off last night and I had nothing on so it is faulty

Helpdesk: “Have you got the alarm with you”

Customer: “ Yes”

Helpdesk: “ Please put the batteries in and press the test button”

Usually the alarm will test OK which our helpdesk are able to hear on the telephone.

Of course if the alarm beeps we may conclude low battery or probably the end-of-life indicator. We will advise accordingly.

If the CO alarm is doing something out of the ordinary we will replace the alarm, if in warranty, within 5 working days.

Let us go back to the CO alarm that actually went into alarm but the next morning is testing OK.

The helpdesk will conclude that there has been a CO event and will talk through where the CO detector it is sited, what appliances were in use and whether the appliances have been serviced by a qualified Engineer.

What can cause a false alarm?

Of course the alarm may have developed  a fault – and this should show with the fault indicator – a combination of flashing LEDs or an amber LED flashing. In this case we will replace the alarm if in warranty.

People ask if anything else can set the CO alarm off. It is unlikely that in domestic situations this will happen. Hydrogen gas can set it off, as can some chemicals not likely to be used in the home.

In a case we were recently involved with, the CO alarm sounded and the caller claimed it was false alarming. When we talked through the circumstances we discovered he was stripping down his motorcycle engine in the room where the alarm was situated using many concentrated solvents , including petrol, to clean the parts.

The manual gives more information on solvents that can affect the alarm. Most of these would not be widely known!

Another real case – CO alarms sounding apparently falsely. We found that they had been installed in a warehouse where gas powered fork lift trucks were operating and the exhaust fumes were setting them off. (A lesson not to fit CO alarms in your garage ).

Another case in a remote Scottish Croft:

The owner said his alarm was sounding regularly. The alarms appeared on examination to be fine. On further investigation  it was found that he had a back-up power system of lead/accumulator batteries. As the batteries charge they produce hydrogen gas which can trigger CO alarms. This issue also happens regularly on boats where batteries are charged.

So, why might your CO alarm have gone off?

At a level of 50ppm (parts per million) of CO the alarm will go off after 90 minutes. You may have been cooking, generating low levels  of CO gas (perhaps your stove flame was slightly blocked and burning inefficiently), turned the stove off, closed the kitchen door and therefore sealed the gas in, leaving the alarm to sound an hour later.

In another case CO gas was entering a neighbouring house when the flue of an application was faulty, unfortunately resulting in a fatality.

When their CO alarms go off responsible customers will switch off the appliances, ventilate the house and ring the gas board. They will rapidly receive a visit from an Engineer. The following text is an extract from a typical letter we received following a callout:

“….the alarm went off so I called XXXXX. They arrived and checked my boiler and said it was working correctly. The Engineer said that there was a fault with your alarm….”

We would make a number of comments about this:

– If CO had been present then the ventilation will have cleared it.

– Did the engineer test for CO in the flue gas of the boiler? Not all Engineers carry such instruments. We know of one Engineer who used our alarm to check the boiler. Other engineers have wrongly used LPG gas detectors to detect carbon monoxide, confusing the issue with leaks of piped gas.

We made a study of such events. We requested the alarms to be returned to us and tested them in our laboratory. In all cases we found that the alarms were working perfectly.


–          Make sure that you understand from the manual what any bleeps from your CO alarm mean. They could indicate a low battery, the end of life in some alarms or a fault indication. In the latter case contact the supplier for a replacement.

–          Understand thatcarbon monoxide can come from a number of appliances including your neighbour’s and that it can build up and set off an alarm after you have gone to bed.

–          Make sure your appliances are serviced by an accredited engineer and that the engineer has the equipment to measure for CO

–          In the case of an alarm follow the instructions in your manual.

–          Fit only CO alarms certified to the EN standard by an independent test body ( eg BSI, LPCB )

False Fire Alarms Waking You Up?

A common complaint we hear about are smoke alarms that go off in the middle of the night. There are a number of reasons and steps you can take to minimise the possibility of nuisance alarms waking you up.

Smoke alarms with low batteries will emit a beeping sound to indicate that the batteries require replacement. Batteries are at their weakest at night when it is cooler and you can therefore get low battery warnings which can wake you up. If it is a low battery warning sound (every few minutes or so), change your batteries. Make sure you use good quality batteries, as cheap batteries may not be strong enough to power the alarm and again cause the alarm to bleep during the night .

The issue of low batteries may  also apply if you have mains powered smoke alarms, as most mains powered alarms contain a backup battery to power the alarm in case of power failure.

If a mains powered smoke alarm gives an irregular warning sound, it might also indicate that the mains power supply is interrupted. Some smoke alarms have a green LED light on the outer case to show that the smoke alarm is connected to the mains power. If the green LED is not lit it can be an indication that there has been an interruption in the mains power supply and that the alarm will be using the back up battery as the power source.

Should the alarm emit a continuous sound, check first of all that there are no signs of a fire. False alarms can be caused by condensation or insects finding their way into the alarm. To eradicate this type of false alarm try to vacuum out the inside of the smoke alarm as thoroughly as possible and ventilate the room to reduce the condensation present.

When a smoke alarm has reached the end of its life it might also start to sound an intermittent beep as and when the alarm starts to become faulty. Check the manufacturing date of the smoke alarm. Smoke alarms need replacing after ten years.

In all cases of nuisance beeping or false alarms do not disconnect your alarm or leave the alarm without batteries fitted. This would leave you unprotected in the event of a fire and you would not receive any warning to evacuate the building.

To ensure that you have done everything possible to minimise the chances of false alarms and nuisance beeping take advantage of our free reminder service to alert you to replace batteries or replace the smoke alarm unit.