Carbon monoxide is completely invisible and undetectable to human senses. It has no colour, smell or taste and because the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can be easily mistaken for the flu it is extremely dangerous and hard to recognise. An audible CO detector is the only certified way to detect carbon monoxide and keep yourself and your family safe.
Carbon monoxide alarms are available in many different shapes, sizes and variations and buying one can sometimes be confusing. We have put together a buying guide to show you the features you should be looking for when buying a carbon monoxide detector.
Always buy a CO detector with a loud 85dB audible alarm that can alert you to the presence of carbon monoxide.
Make sure your CO detector complies with BS EN 50291 and carries a British kitemark or European approval mark.
Look out for carbon monoxide detectors that are supplied with a 5, 7 or 10 year manufacturer's warranty.
Choose an alarm that has a low battery warning. This will give you an audible signal when you need to replace your batteries.
CO alarms with sealed lithium batteries provide additional peace of mind that your unit will be powered for its entire life.
A digital display alarm can give you an early visual warning if the level of carbon monoxide is creeping up.
If you want to have a single unit that can detect smoke and carbon monoxide, combined alarms are available.
Always buy your alarm from a trusted supplier and be aware of alarms that do not comply with European standards.
You can buy a carbon monoxide detector that complies with the BS EN 50291 and carries a kitemark or European approval mark for around £10.00. You can usually find alarms in your local DIY store or supermarket but we have compiled a list of trusted online retailers below:
Carbon monoxide alarms should be installed in all rooms that have fuel burning appliances and can be wall or ceiling mounted at a horizontal distance of between 1m and 3m from the appliance. Ideally you should have an alarm on each floor of your property and additional alarms should be located in bedrooms.
Don't place CO alarms above windows or radiators; the natural air flow can interfere with the alarms ability to detect carbon monoxide.
You should have an audible carbon monoxide alarm installed in any room that has a fuel burning appliance, especially areas such as:
We recommend installing additional carbon monoxide alarms in common areas and areas that are close to fuel burning appliances such as:
(doc:545 V1.0). Our articles are reviewed regularly. However, any changes made to standards or legislation following the review date will not have been considered. Please note that we provide abridged, easy-to-understand guidance. To make detailed decisions about your fire safety provisions, you might require further advice or need to consult the full standards and legislation.
Many people are unaware of the devastating effects of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon Monoxide has no colour, smell or taste and cannot be detected by the human senses. It is extremely dangerous, binding itself to the haemoglobin in red blood cells and preventing them from transporting oxygen around the body.
According to statistics released by the Office for National Statistics, throughout England and Wales, there are an average of over 60 deaths every year due to accidental exposure to carbon monoxide - up to 45% of which occur in the home.
Figures from the Department of Health and Social Care show that there are around 4000 cases of carbon monoxide poisoning treated in A&E Departments across England each year - even mild cases can exacerbate existing conditions such as respiratory illnesses, leading to fatalities.
According to the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for England, around 200 per year are hospitalised in England and Wales as a result of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.
A study of more than 27,000 properties by the Liverpool John Moores University, supported by the Merseyside and West Midlands Fire Services, found that less than 10% of homes have a single carbon monoxide alarm to protect occupants from this deadly gas.
Source: Liverpool John Moores University