Selecting the correct Carbon Monoxide Alarm Position is an important issue for parents. You cannot simply put them anywhere and expect them to provide you with the early warning that you need to protect your family.
What is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless, toxic, flammable gas formed by the incomplete combustion of carbon-based fuels (gas, oil, wood, coal etc).
Modern homes are full of appliances that burn these types of fuels and they are generally perfectly safe to use. The problem arises when the fuel is not burned properly by the appliance and the excess Carbon Monoxide is allowed to escape into the home environment.
If allowed to enter the human body, Carbon Monoxide prevents the blood from carrying enough Oxygen to cells, tissues and organs. In the right conditions Carbon Monoxide gas can kill in a few hours and, even if death does not result, victims can suffer serious injury including brain damage and paralysis.
It is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in the USA.
Of course, the big problem with Carbon Monoxide is that, unlike methane gas, you can’t smell it.
How Can You Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?
There are some signs that you can look for, including:
- pilot lights that frequently blow out
- increased condensation around windows
- yellow/orange flames instead of blue (unless your fire is designed to do this)
- soot or staining around an appliance
However, you should NEVER rely solely upon these visual warning signs as Carbon Monoxide poisoning can occur very quickly and long before any obvious visible signs of a leak can be detected by your eyes!
The best way to detect a leak is to install Carbon Monoxide Alarms in your home. When they detect an unusual level of gas, they sound an alarm much in the same way that a smoke detector does. These alarms are not expensive, they are very easy to install and they save lives!
Obviously, the best way to avoid Carbon Monoxide poisoning is to prevent the leaks from happening in the first place.
How can you prevent leaks?
- ensure that appliances are installed / serviced by suitably qualified people (“Gas Safe” in the UK)
- ensure that appliances are checked / serviced regularly by Gas Safety Engineers (every year is recommended)
A Salutary Lesson – when we moved into our current house about 3 years ago I was delighted with my 2 new 1910’s style period fireplaces. Not only were the surrounds attractive, but they were both fitted with those gas fires that look a bit like the coal fires that would have been present originally. Winter came and I decided to try them out, but rather than light them immediately, my health and safety obsession kicked in and I decided to arrange for a gas safety engineer to service them first. Whilst the people we had bought the house from seemed nice and respectable I thought it best to make sure that the fires were safe. I was fully expecting a clean bill of health and a happy gas safety engineer performing a very routine inspection.
BUT! – I can still visualise the bemused face of the gas safety engineer as he removed some big old cushions from the flue vent immediately above the fire in the hallway !!
Not only would this have been a fire risk, but the cushions would have prevented any Carbon Monoxide gasses from escaping out of the house.
I can’t remember how many times I used the expression “I told you so!” that evening, but I suspect it was at least 5.
So, whenever you move in to a new home I advise you to have all gas appliances checked before you use them.
Which Carbon Monoxide Alarms Should I Use?
There are a number of good products to suit a variety of different budgets.
The main decision is whether to buy a combined gas/smoke alarm or separate units.
Where Should I Position Carbon Monoxide Alarms?
The “Carbon Monoxide Alarm Position” question is something that confused me initially .. and if I’m confused by it then I suspect many others share my confusion.
My confusion stemmed from the fact that I had been advised by a Gas Safety Engineer that they should be positioned above the gas fireplaces, yet there are a number of combined gas/smoke detectors on the market that need to be installed on the ceiling!? Perhaps I had misunderstood him or perhaps both options are equally valid? (Note: I have since asked the Gas Safety Engineer about this and it seems that I had misunderstood his instructions!)
So, where should they be positioned? – on the ceiling or above the appliances?
One thing to bear in mind is that CO gas is slightly lighter than air so it will rise to the ceiling and then slowly descend as more leaks out of your appliance.
The Answer –
- You SHOULD NOT position carbon monoxide alarms immediately above the gas appliances if they are likely to be used
- You SHOULD ideally position them in the same room as the gas appliance
- You CAN mount them on the wall at least 5 feet above floor level – preferably in a central location, but out of the reach of pets and small children
- You CAN mount them on the ceiling
- You MUST install at least 1 alarm on each floor of your home
- You MUST NOT install them in a cupboard or next to an outside door
- You MUST regularly check that they are still working and replace them (or the batteries) when necessary
Carbon Monoxide leaks are naturally a big concern for parents. However, provided you take these simple steps to “prevent” and/or “detect” leaks it shouldn’t cause you too many sleepless nights.
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