Carbon Monoxide Detector Placement [ 2018 Update ]

Carbon monoxide detectors are an essential part of keeping your family safe. We highlight the best practices of where you should place the detectors.

Where to Install a Carbon Monoxide Detector

placing a carbon monoxide detectorAs important as smoke alarms, they are designed to go off and produce a high frequency, beeping sound when carbon monoxide (CO) levels are considered too high.

What is the ideal mounting height? In our opinion, the number one place to fit a carbon monoxide detector is close to where you have gas appliances. Ideally, next to a boiler and gas hob and so on. However, you should read the manufacturers installation instructions and follow their guidelines.

The CO gas does not necessarily rise but will mix with the air that it meets, so place the alarm somewhere along the middle of the wall.

It’s not advisable to put it on the ceiling as the gas will diffuse through the air and spread out. While hot air and smoke will rise, CO gas does not.

Do I have a legal obligation to fit CO alarms?

Not in all cases. It is a legal obligation to fit one if the home has a solid fuel burning appliance e.g. a log burner.

If I’ve had a new boiler installed, should I fit a CO alarm?

If it’s a new combi-boiler – which are all sealed units – then risks with carbon monoxide poisoning should be non-existent. The situation where a new combi-boiler could cause CO issues is if the engineer attending to the fitting or repair of the boiler did not replace the seals properly.

How many carbon monoxide alarms should I fit in my house?

CO is a by-product of fuels being burned, such as charcoal, natural gas, kerosene, wood and so on.

If you burn these fuels in your home, then you need to ensure your appliances are sealed units. However, sometimes leaks do occur so it’s important to have the right detectors, fitted in appropriate right areas.

While it is highly recommended to have an alarm in every room, this isn’t always economically viable or logistically possible.

With the above in mind, it is recommended you follow the guidelines on locations below:

  • If you’re only having one alarm in the house, place it equidistant to all the bedrooms.
  • If you’re going to have two alarms, place the other alarm near the kitchen where there are gas appliances and/or next to your boiler.
  • If it’s a multi storey house, make sure you have an alarm on the upper levels as well.

Maintaining a CO alarm in your home

Maintenance of carbon monoxide alarms are similar to maintaining smoke alarms:

  • Test the CO alarm on a frequent basis, maybe once every 12 weeks but stick to a routine.
  • Replace batteries once every 12 months. Some people like to do this when the clocks go back/forward.
  • CO alarms do expire after a few years – replace them when this is due as advised by the manufacturers guide.
  • By law you must supply a CO alarm in Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs)

What are the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning?

The silent killer. It’s poisonous, odourless and colourless. Once inhaled, it stops your body from getting the oxygen it needs.

When it is inhaled, the CO (carbon monoxide) attaches itself to the molecule that is tasked with transporting oxygen around the body. These molecules, called haemoglobin, will then become saturated with CO instead of O2 (Oxygen) as more and more carbon monoxide is taken in. Carbon monoxide poisoning then ensues.

What are the symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning?

Early signs may include queasiness, confusion, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. Young children and the elderly are more sensitive to CO poisoning.

If the concentration of the gas inhalation is high, then a person may lose consciousness. Carbon monoxide inhalation is the highest cause of death due to poisoning in the USA, Britain and France.

What are the highest risks for carbon monoxide poisoning?

The highest risks are from:

  • Gas fires being not being serviced properly
  • The blocking of vents if they are needed to provide oxygen to the fire
  • Carbon monoxide seeping in through adjoining properties that have faulty appliances

We suffer from cold weather and windy conditions in this country, but the vents in a house exist for good reason. It is not acceptable cover up the air vent due to a draught, especially if there are open flue gas appliances in the premises.

The third highest risk is rather alarming. It may be the case that in your mind, your family home does not need a CO alarm, but if a leak from a faulty appliance in your neighbours home affected you, how would you detect It before it got too late?

I’ve heard that in the future, installing a CO alarm will be mandatory

At time of writing, it is only a legal requirement to install a CO alarm in a room containing a solid fuel appliance. The government have been consulting on extending this requirement to all rented properties.

A campaign group calling itself Project Shout is involved in lobbying the government to make the installation of a CO alarm mandatory in all properties.

A consultation took place last year, running from November 2017 to January 2018 and the relevant Government departments are analysing the feedback. As time of writing, no decisions have yet been made, which means mandatory regulations have not been drafted.

What is the recommendation by the Health and Safety Executive?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides guidance for regular inspection and servicing. In their guidance, this is the best way to ensure safety.

The most common cause of carbon monoxide poisoning and related incidents is due to a lack of inspection and servicing, coupled with old appliances that predominantly have an open flue.

Furthermore, the HSE state that 1 in 20 incidents investigated indicate the source of the CO to be from a neighbouring property.

Why are older gas appliances problematic?

Older appliances such as boilers tend have an open flue. This is upto 10 times more likely to be the source of a poisoning incident than modern room sealed appliances. Defunct back boilers and warm air units are hazardous and need to be decommissioned at the earliest opportunity in our opinion.

It should be noted that an old boiler is not necearrily a problem. A boiler that is 10 to 15 years old has nothing to do with how much CO it produces. In fact older appliances that are non-condensing rarely produce more than 3 or 4 parts per million of CO (when operating correctly) whereas condensing boilers produce, on average, 150 parts per million of CO (when operating correctly).

Is everyone aware of the risks posed by carbon monoxide?

As an owner occupier of a property, we need to check the gas appliances. Many do get their boilers checked and serviced but older appliances can sometimes get overlooked e.g. open flue gas fires which are decades old.

A project funded by HSE states:

  • CO awareness was poor with 45% having received no information about the dangers of CO
  • Only 3% of the sample group had heard of the Priority Service Register scheme – free appliance checks for pensioners and other eligible persons
  • that the proportion of the general population unaware of CO risks and the PSR may be even higher than 45% and 97%

The HSE report linked above, concludes that:

2% of all homes were assessed to have a “very high” risk, and a further 4% were estimated as having a “high” risk of exposure to concentrations of CO above WHO guideline levels.

Particularly vulnerable are the elderly and those on the lowest incomes that may be more concerned about heating bills over winter. A report by National Energy Action (NEA) found that households suffering in cold homes are also at risk from carbon monoxide poisoning.

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