Gas Safety

Do I need a carbon monoxide detector for a gas boiler?

For you and your family's safety, it is advisable to fit a carbon monoxide alarm in each room in your home that has a gas appliance or solid fuel heating.

Below we answer some frequently asked questions about carbon monoxide (CO), carbon monoxide alarms (co alarms) and what to do if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning.

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is a highly poisonous gas produced by the incomplete burning of natural gas, liquid petroleum gas (LPG), oil, wood, coal or petrol. It can occur when appliances have been incorrectly fitted, poorly maintained, badly repaired or when vents, chimneys and flues are blocked.

Carbon monoxide is colourless, tasteless and has no odour, making it very difficult to detect without a carbon monoxide detector.

What are the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning? 

The most common symptoms of mild carbon monoxide poisoning are headache, nausea and feeling tired or confused - in fact, very similar symptoms to those of flu.

However, if you find your symptoms improve or go away when you are away from home, and get worse when you return, and if everyone else in the home, including pets, has the same symptoms, you may be experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning and should see your GP immediately.

In severe cases, it can quickly cause collapse and loss of consciousness, long term damage and even death.

What to do if you suspect you have carbon monoxide poisoning? 
  • Open doors and windows to let in fresh air, turn off gas appliances and leave the house.
  • See your doctor or go to hospital immediately – tell them you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, so they can check by doing a blood or breath test. 
  • Call the Gas Emergency Helpline on 0800 111 999 if you think there is imminent danger.
  • Arrange for a Gas Safe registered engineer to check your gas appliances, flues and pipes.

What is a carbon monoxide detector?

Carbon monoxide detectors, also known as CO alarms, work in a similar way to smoke alarms. If carbon monoxide is present in your home, the detector will beep loudly to warn you of the danger. 

We recommend the use of an audible carbon monoxide detector, rather than one that just changes colour, because it will alert you straightaway and wake you if you are asleep. The alarm should be marked with British Standard EN 50291, and a British or European approval mark such as the Kitemark.

  • Ensure your carbon monoxide alarm has a battery life of five years
  • Test your alarm weekly
  • Fitting a carbon monoxide alarm is not a substitute for having your appliances regularly serviced
  • Smoke alarms do not detect carbon monoxide
  • Don't forget to take a portable audible carbon monoxide alarm on holiday with you. Protecting the family when away is often overlooked in the rush to pack the family suitcases

Where to place a carbon monoxide detector (CO alarms)

Your carbon monoxide detector could save your and your family’s lives, so it is vital you install them in the best place to protect you from this poisonous gas.

Before you install your carbon monoxide alarm, be sure to read the user manual to find out how to install, test and service the alarm. Take careful note of when the batteries should be replaced.

Here are some do’s and don’ts on where to place a carbon monoxide detector:

  • In every room containing a fuel-burning appliance, such as a gas boiler, fire or stove and in every room through which a flue from one of those appliances passes.
  • For ultimate protection, place a carbon monoxide detector in every room you spend time in when awake and in bedrooms where you sleep.
  • Do not fit detectors in enclosed spaces, like in cupboards or behind curtains or furniture.
  • Don't place the carbon monoxide detector near windows, doors or fans, or in damp places such as bathrooms or next to extractor fans and cooker hobs.
  • If you are installing the alarm in the same room as the appliance, make sure it is between 1 metre and 3 metres horizontally from the appliance. You can fix the alarm to the wall or place it on a shelf or a bookcase, ideally above the level of any doors, windows or vents in the room and at least 15cm from the ceiling. If you decide to fix it to the ceiling, make sure it is at least 30cm away from the walls or any light fittings.
  • If you are installing the alarm in a room without an appliance, make sure it is about at head height (your breathing level). You could stand it on a table or shelf.

Once your carbon monoxide alarms have been installed, test them regularly by pressing the test button (refer to the user manual) and replace the batteries as soon as the ‘low battery’ signal beeps. 

Annual Servicing is important to check for gas safety

Your gas appliances, including your boiler, oven, hob and gas fire, should be serviced annually by a Gas Safe registered engineer, in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions, to ensure they are working safely and efficiently. It's rather like giving your car an annual service to make sure it is safe to drive.

An annual service is a good way to check everything is working correctly, and can help to reduce the risk of breakdowns and potential safety hazards. During the service, your Gas Safe engineer will check to make sure the gas is burning properly, that all the seals are intact and that flues or chimneys are not blocked or leaking.

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