How to keep your home safe from carbon monoxide poisoning
Everyone wants to keep their home safe. We install burglar alarms to deter intruders and smoke alarms to alert us to fires; we fit child-proof locks on the windows and stairs, and we keep sandbags in storage in case of a flood. But a shocking majority of us are woefully under-prepared when it comes to protecting our homes against carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carbon monoxide poisoning kills dozens of people per year, while 4,000 people are admitted to A&E every year with carbon monoxide poisoning, and 200 of those are hospitalised with serious side effects.
Whether your home is powered by gas or heating oil, carbon monoxide poisoning is a very real risk, yet more than 62% of homes in the UK are not fitted with a carbon monoxide alarm, placing millions of people at risk.
In support of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Awareness Week, BoilerJuice – the leading online supplier of heating oil have put together an infographic to help homeowners, landlords and tenants protect themselves from carbon monoxide poisoning.
1. Understand the risk
Carbon monoxide an odourless, colourless and tasteless gas, so you may not realise that you are at risk from poisoning until it is too late. When it is breathed in, even in small quantities, it becomes absorbed into the blood stream, preventing red blood cells from carrying oxygen around your body. Prolonged and extreme exposure can result in death within a little as 20 minutes, while minimal exposure over the long term can cause brain damage and paralysis.
2. Know the symptoms
There are six main symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Tiredness and confusion
- Stomach pain
- Shortness of breath.
If you start to experience one or more of these symptoms, open your windows immediately and breathe in some fresh air; turn off all your appliances; and see a doctor immediately.
3. Take care of your tank
Gas leaks are the most common cause of carbon monoxide poisoning in British homes, and the best way to avoid them is to take preventative measures.
Make sure your boiler is installed by an OFTEC registered engineer, and serviced at least once a year so you can catch any potential leaks early. If you have any concerns about your oil or gas supply in between annual appointments (for instance, if your tank has been vandalised or damaged in a storm), book another service to make sure everything is in order.
You can find a list of qualified local boiler service engineers at BoilerJuice.
4. Install an alarm
Carbon monoxide alarms are widely available and inexpensive. Make sure you install the alarm correctly, or get a registered engineer to do it for you. Test the alarm every couple of months to make sure it is still in good working order, and take regular readings so that you can familiarise yourself with the warning signs if there is evidence of a minor leak.
If you are a tenant, ask your landlord to supply one for you, and if you live in a large property, consider installing more than one alarm.
5. Fix faulty appliances immediately
There are a few tell-tale signs of a gas leak – keep a close eye on your appliances for any of the following changes:
- Your pilot light goes out more frequently than usual
- Dark brown or yellow stains appear around your boiler or other appliances
- The gas flame on your cooker is low and orange (rather than high and blue)
- Dark smoke is coming out of your boiler
If any of these issues arise in your home, get your appliances fixed immediately. While you are waiting for the engineer to arrive, keep plenty of windows open and turn off your gas and oil supply at the mains.