Monday, 27 October 2014

Heating Season and why you should have a CO Detector

Carbon monoxide danger, carbon monoxide detector, heating season

I'm guessing that the majority of us have their heating switched on already, it is getting chilly even if the sun is out isn't it? I remember last year (or the year before) we had to get a new boiler installed right between the 2 big snow falls as ours gave up. This year, armed with a new boiler, which was just serviced in February, we thought that we wouldn't have to worry about another break down. There wasn't anything out of ordinary to indicate that it was faulty, apart from a booming sound every time we use the hot water. We didn't think it was a big issue, until we had to (luckily!) do a final service before we sell the house.

Our trusted engineer slapped a big fat sticker on our boiler and told us that he had to turn it off until the boiler company fixed it. Apparently, the gas valve refused to close fully, and gas has been secretly seeping into the gas tank. So every time we turn the boiler on, it ignite the tank full of gas and made that booming noise (like a mini explosion). The good thing is that it hasn't been leaking into the house, and warranty has covered the fix!

To be honest, if we didn't have to do another check, we wouldn't have noticed that there is a problem, and would have continued using it until we moved. The engineer told us that the gas wasn't leaking into the house so it wouldn't have exposed us to immediate danger, but sooner or later the boiler will break down because of that (he assured me that it wouldn't blow up...), so we are glad that it's fixed and we are safe now.

Recently, I was brought to attention that gas appliances such as boilers, ovens and hobs could release carbon monoxide (CO, poisonous) instead of carbon dioxide (CO2, not poisonous) if the appliance is badly fitted or have issues, making me wonder whether we have such problem with the boiler and other appliances (another scare).

The problem with CO is that they can't be detected at all (colourless and odourless), unless you have a carbon monoxide detector installed. There are tell-tale signs you can look out for (see below), but I don't think it's very obvious, and that could be why more than 200 people in the UK go to the hospital each year with suspected CO poisoning, and approximately 40 people die from it.

The tell-tale signs you should look out for that might indicate that you have a CO problem:

- Flame on the cooker is yellow/ orange instead of crisp blue
- dark staining around or on appliances
- sooty marks on the wall around boilers, stoves or the cover of gas fires
- pilot lights that frequently goes out
- increase condensation inside windows

(For more information, you can check out websites like CORGI Homeplan)

I still think that the signs aren't very obvious, and it's hard to judge the degree of each sign before it actually means something (e.g condensation on windows could be caused by steam from cooking, so what is an abnormal amount of condensation?).

The safest thing to do is to install a Carbon monoxide detector, which you can get for about £15 to £35. Which? has a few tips on how to choose a good CO detector:

- Have an audible alarm (instead of just a "colour change" or "back spot" indicator) which will sound and alarm when it detects CO
- have a British Standard EN 50291 mark (or BSEN 50291, or shown with the CE mark)
- have a British or European Kitemark, Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB) or equivalent testing approval mark

Companies like CORGI Homeplan are campaigning for every household to have a CO detector, and after the boiler scare (you really wouldn't know until it's too late or by luck!) I agree with them, get a CO detector for your peace of mind. I'm having one on the way, and with the days getting colder, you might want to start looking for one too.