Leaving no smell and having no taste Carbon Monoxide is very dangerous and toxic. Conventional gas appliances when operating correctly produce as a normal by product harmless gases but if your appliance for some reason has lowered the required levels of oxygen the ongoing combustion may develop Carbon Monoxide gas. Properly balanced ventilation will result in Carbon Dioxide output, Carbon Monoxide will result if the level of oxygen is restricted with reduced airflow or a blocked flue.

Regrettably there are a number of deaths every year directly attributable to poisoning from carbon monoxide, there are a much larger number of illnesses associated with this gas. It is sad to note that the majority of these could be avoided if homeowners ensured that their boiler installations were consistent with the latest ventilation guidelines and that their gas boiler or household appliances were regularly serviced by a properly qualified plumber.

Can a visual review of a gas appliance indicate there is a problem?

Carbon Dioxide is treated when there is a problem with the amount of the right type of air – oxygen –in the boiler , combustion chamber. The first sign of this problem will be the depositing of soot on the gas appliance. Another way of quickly checking whether there is a problem with how the gas is being burned is to take a peek at your pilot light. A blue flame is shown with normal operation and this can have a yellow discolouration if there is oxygen deprivation. Treat the pilot light like a traffic light, if it turns yellow this is a warning and you should arrange for the boiler to be serviced as quickly as you can.

Tell me how to cut down the risks of Carbon Monoxide related illness.

The simple guideline is that if you have a deficit of oxygen you will get an excess of carbon monoxide. On the assumption that there are no design faults in the ventilation of your boiler, frequent boiler and gas appliance servicing will help to avoid any problems which could ultimately result in the production of carbon monoxide.

To ensure that you get expert appliance service you should check that the engineer is CORGI-registered. Fitting a carbon monoxide detector in your home and one that has an audible alarm is also a great step to provide early indications to the whole family of dangerous carbon monoxide production.

Every gas appliance has a recommended ventilation requirement and, as a minimum, annual inspections should be carried out to ensure that this stipulation is being respected. Gas appliances and boilers may not be used in the summer months but air vents can become obstructed at this time through the growth of plants and vegetation in the garden, this is a potential problem which you should keep in mind. There have been cases where a simple birds nest can cause a problem with chimney ventilation and sometimes a house owner may not spot this if the gas fire is not being operated in the summer. There is a need for ongoing vigilance and your home maintenance schedule should occasionally include a visual inspection of the efficacy of the chimney.

What should I look for as early signs of poisoning from carbon monoxide?

If you suspect there is carbon monoxide in your home you should err on the side of caution. Do not read this or other articles and form your own judgement.

Seek help without delay. Even though you may be young and have good health none of this will be a guaranteed protection against carbon monoxide poisoning. Pets, large and small, are also potential victims. Carbon Monoxide poisoning exhibits symptoms which can appear like other illnesses, for example: –

persistent headaches
loss of energy

If you notice symptoms such as these when you have gas appliances in the home, stop using the appliance without delay, increase ventilation to the rooms, take any inhabitants outside and ensure that your gas appliances are inspected by a properly qualified gas engineer.

Are carbon monoxide detectors freely available?

Carbon monoxide detectors should have a very loud alarm and be certified to British Standards. Such alarms have long lasting batteries (5 years) and the alarm is triggered when abnormal levels of carbon monoxide are detected enabling people to escape the area. You may have seen some paper based models in the shops. These use a chemical reaction to show a different colour when there is carbon monoxide present. Many people feel that the electronic detectors offer a better protection and the noisy alarm is a definite bonus. With a colour change detector you may forget to replace the detector when it has expired after 6 months creating a risk. Also the lack of an alarm means that you may not be made aware of a problem in the critical early hours. The risks to you increase when you are asleep at night as common monoxide could be building up in your body and you would not is feel any of these symptoms. A battery operated alarm will make a very loud noise to which you from your sleep and review early warning of these issues.

Carbon Monoxide detectors are now readily available in the high street being stocked by many types of stores.

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