Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Reliable carbon monoxide alarms from reputable companies are Kitemarked to the relevant British Standard – BS 50291 Part 1, and optionally Part 2 as well, outlining the manufacturing and testing of "electrical apparatus for the detection of carbon monoxide." Part 1 of the Standard deals with alarms designed for use in domestic premises and is sufficient for the majority of customers. BS 50291-2 compliance builds on Part 1 requirements and means that the alarms are suitable for "recreational vehicles" such as caravans, but also covering camping in tents, while an optional extra test allows companies to certify their alarms for use in boats as well.
CO Alarm Power Supply
Mains-powered CO alarms are connected either via a standard wall plug or direct wiring into the mains power supply of the property and some also contain backup batteries in case of a mains power failure. Battery-powered alarms can utilise standard alkaline batteries which will need replacing regularly or they can have sealed long life lithium cells designed to last for the entire working lifespan of the alarm. Both types of alarm may support interlinking with compatible smoke and heat alarms, though battery-powered alarms must be interlinked via radio frequency while mains-powered alarms may use hardwire interlinking instead.
CO Sensor Lifespan
CO detectors typically have a lifespan ranging from 5 to 10 years, and advances in sensor technology mean that 10-year alarms are becoming much more common. There are several types of carbon monoxide sensor which may be used by alarm manufacturers and due to the nature of how the different technologies work their usable lifespans also differ, though even alarms using the same sensor technology may not be designed to operate for the same amount of time. As carbon monoxide is completely undetectable by human senses, unlike smoke and heat in a fire, CO alarms typically have longer manufacturer warranties than other alarms – commonly matching the sensor's lifespan.
What is Carbon Monoxide (CO)?
Carbon monoxide (chemical symbol 'CO') is a gas created when fossil fuels are burnt with insufficient oxygen or at low burning temperatures. This happens when the embers of a fire are nearly out or when a gas boiler is badly maintained, supplying the flame with too little oxygen.
Carbon monoxide gas is highly poisonous and can incapacitate or even kill people in a closed room within a short time. Carbon monoxide build-up can happen if a flue is blocked by bird's nests, the chimney is not working properly or if, for example, a BBQ is fetched into a closed space to heat a room or tent, especially when the embers are close to being extinguished. Carbon monoxide cannot be tasted, seen or smelled, so to protect yourself, a carbon monoxide detector is required.
Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide stops the red blood particles in the blood from transporting oxygen around the body, which leads to lack of oxygen across the body and brain. The first symptoms are very similar to flu with headaches, tiredness and nausea. This is followed by unconsciousness and, if the exposure continues, can lead to death. There is no harmless level of carbon monoxide and an extended low-level exposure to carbon monoxide will lead to lasting health damage.
If you Suspect Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Switch off any fuel burning appliances, open all windows and leave the house. If you suspect longterm exposure you need to see a doctor for blood tests. A general indication of low-level exposure is if you are feeling ill when in the house and feeling better when outside or at work.
If the CO gas source is a boiler, call the Gas Emergency services on 0800 111999. Call 0845 6585080 if the fuel is heating oil and 0845 6345626 if it is a solid fuel fire.