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Carbon monoxide - How to spot it, how to stop it

Posted on 7/15/2020

Carbon monoxide is poisonous and can come from various places in your home. But keeping an eye out for it isn’t easy. The danger of carbon monoxide is that if you and your family were breathing it in, you’d probably have no idea because it doesn’t taste, doesn’t smell and is completely invisible.

If you suspect CO poisoning, get fresh air immediately, seek medical help and contact a Gas Safe engineer

So this article is here to shed some light on what it does, where it comes from and how you can prevent it.

What are the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning?

If you think you or your family have been exposed to carbon monoxide, the most common symptom is a tension-type headache. This is when both sides of the head hurt, your neck might be tense and there may be pressure behind the eyes. It’s a sort of everyday headache that isn’t acute enough to stop you from going to work – and lasts at least half an hour.

Other symptoms to look out for, according to the NHS, include:

  • Dizziness
  • Feeling/being sick
  • Tiredness and confusion
  • Stomach pain
  • Shortness of breath

Symptoms of low exposure are similar to the way you’d feel with food poisoning, flu, or a hangover.

Where do carbon monoxide leaks come from?

Carbon monoxide is produced when fuels like oil, gas, coal and wood don’t properly or full burn. Several household appliances use those fuels, most commonly boiler and central heating systems but also gas ovens and hobs. A fault or any other issue can increase the risk of carbon monoxide escaping.

Other possible sources include blocked chimneys, paint fumes, smoking shisha pipes indoors and burning fuel in enclosed spaces (like a car’s engine turning over in a garage).

Carbon monoxide leak signs you should look out for

If you’re worried about dangerous carbon monoxide levels, here are some tell-tale signs to look out for in your home:

  • Pilot light frequently blowing out
  • Dripping or condensation on windows near an appliance
  • Brownish stains around an appliance
  • The smell of something burning
  • Smoke or backdraft in the house from a chimney or fireplace
  • No upward draft in the chimney
  • Fallen soot in fireplaces
  • The smell of unusual gases (even though carbon monoxide is odourless, it’s sometimes accompanied by exhaust fumes you can smell)
  • Yellow/ orange flame on a gas appliance when it should be blue
  • Solid fuel fires take longer to burn

How to prevent carbon monoxide leaks

The first thing you need to do is install a carbon monoxide alarm. They start at around £15, have a battery life of two to three years and are pretty easy to install yourself. However, do your research and talk to an expert before buying. A quick look at reviews online will tell you there are some pretty dodgy ones out there. So beware!

As well as looking out for the signs listed earlier, here are some other practical steps you can take to prevent leaks:

  • Make sure all your gas appliances are properly installed, well maintained and regularly checked by a Gas Safe registered engineer
  • Keep your chimney clear
  • Never run your car in the garage when the doors are closed
  • Don’t use barbeques indoors
  • Keep caravans and camper vans well ventilated if you’re using gas appliances
  • Get professional advice when installing a heating device in a small room or room without a window

Get professional advice

A lot of the preventative measures we’ve suggested, you can do yourself. Others you can’t. If you have the faintest feeling that something isn’t right with a gas appliance – or anything else technical – speak to a professional Gas Safe registered engineer immediately.

At Local Heroes, we can put you in touch with a Gas Safe registered professonal in your area. We vet every single one on our platform and all work they do comes with a 12-month guarantee backed by British Gas.

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