Carbon Monoxide

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is an extremely poisonous gas that can be present in the fumes from the combustion of fuels which aren’t burnt under the correct conditions. Fuels such as gas, oil, solid mineral fuel and biomass all have the potential to emit CO. The gas cannot be seen, smelled or tasted making it difficult to detect. The symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning include: Headaches, Nausea and/or vomiting, Breathlessness, Dizziness or Collapse, Chest and/or stomach pains, Erratic behaviour and/or Visual problems. Severe cases can result in death.

Gas Safety in Holiday Properties

If your holiday property has a gas boiler, cooker, oven, fire or any other appliance that runs on mains or bottled gas then the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 apply to you. You must have an annual check carried out on all gas appliances and flues by a registered "Gas Safe" engineer. They will provide a report saying whether the appliances are still safe to use until the next inspection.

Some Practical Considerations

  • The annual gas safety inspection by a registered engineer is the first priority in keeping your appliances safe.
  • Because a service is usually carried out at the same time and spare parts might have to be sourced if repairs are needed it is easiest to get the check done during the off-season
  • There have been instances of bogus gas engineers carrying out safety checks so it is advisable to check your contractors details against the Gas Safe Register
  • Replace older or worn out appliances in good time, to avoid costly breakdowns during your busy letting season
  • When you get your report, make sure that the engineer has actually checked all the appliances. We have seen instances where the engineer has checked the boiler and hob, but overlooked the gas fire in the lounge, for example

The Report

Gas Safety Record

This is a typical gas safety report. Section 1 shows what has been checked, Section 2 any defects identified and Section 3 when the next check is due. On this report you can see that the engineer has advised that a sign should be installed to show where the gas can be isolated. This is a sensible requirement and particularly useful in properties where the gas meter and shut off valve are hidden away in an obscure place. View a PDF of the report here

Gas Isolation Valve

What if something fails?

The Gas Safe Engineer will disconnect the supply to the offending appliance and it must not be used until it has been repaired and re-tested. This is why it is always better to get your Landlords Gas Safety Check and servicing carried out in the off-season.

Gas safety warning

Carbon Monoxide

Even though your Gas Appliances are checked once a year, you could still have a problem with Carbon Monoxide if something goes wrong.

Gas Appliances are also not the only source of Carbon Monoxide. This can be produced by for example:

  • Oil and gas boilers
  • Wood-burning or coal burning stoves
  • Clogged chimneys
  • Oil or solid fuel cookers
  • Gas ovens
  • Gas appliances
  • Any fossil fuel burning appliance
  • Barbecues
  • Broken or corroded flues
  • Portable generators
  • Even adjoining properties
  • Things visitors bring with them such as gas-powered hair tongs, camping gas stoves or gas-powered barbecues

Because visitors can bring gas-powered items with them, there is still a possibility of a Carbon Monoxide problem in an all-electric property

The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015

This law came into effect on the 1st October 2015. It requires Landlords to fit a Carbon Monoxide alarm in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance (i.e. rooms containing an open fire, log burning stove, etc.). However, it does not state that CO alarms are required in rooms which have gas appliances. But in the guidance booklet issued on gov.uk it states, "as gas appliances can emit carbon monoxide, we would expect and encourage reputable landlords to ensure that working carbon monoxide alarms are installed in rooms with these".

Safer4Guests would suggest that all holiday property owners should have Carbon Monoxide Alarms fitted in all rooms that have fuel burning appliances (gas, oil, coal, wood) and that the recommendations of the alarm manufacturer are carefully followed.

Check your property meets the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 by using the Gas and Carbon Monoxide Risk Assessment Tool

Alarm Industry Guidance

Useful guidance covering both smoke and Carbon Monoxide alarms can be found by clicking here

The Two Layers of Protection

For any Gas Appliance the two layers of protection are:

  1. The Annual Gas Safety Inspection by a registered Gas Safe Engineer
  2. A Carbon Monoxide Alarm correctly installed to protect anyone in proximity to that appliance

And for oil burning appliances the two layers of protection are:

  1. Regular servicing by a suitably qualified engineer
  2. A Carbon Monoxide Alarm correctly installed to protect anyone in proximity to that appliance

And for coal and wood burning appliances:

  1. Verification that the fireplace or stove has been installed correctly by HETAS contractor and regular chimney sweeping and inspection
  2. A Carbon Monoxide Alarm correctly installed to protect anyone in proximity to that stove or fireplace

The installation of Carbon Monoxide Alarms is never a substitute for the first layer of protection.

Examples

Wall mounted CO alarm

The wall mounted Kidde alarm shown above is great for retro-fitting in holiday properties and has a 10 year battery. Alarms which require new batteries each year are a nuisance in holiday cottages as the need to replace the batteries often gets overlooked and visitors mistake the alarm bleeping to warn of low batteries for a real CO emergency.

Fire Angel ceiling alarm

In some properties, wall mounting isn't practical and a ceiling mounted alarm is a better choice. The Fire Angel alarm above also has a 10 year battery and here the distance from the wall is being confirmed during installation to comply with the manufacturers instructions.

In this particular property, the owner had four Carbon Monoxide alarms installed. One in the utility room containing an Oil-Fired central heating boiler, the second in the kitchen/diner that has a wood-burning stove, the third in the lounge that also has a wood-burning stove and a fourth on the upstairs landing to protect the upper level of the house.

CO Alarms Must Be Installed Correctly

A badly installed alarm offers little or no protection to guests. The following picture is a good illustration. This alarm is in a dead space, on a windowsill in a bathroom.

Badly installed CO alarm

Flue Dangers

Any flue will only discharge fumes or gases safely to outside if it is in good condition. The picture below shows a potentially very dangerous situation where the inspection plate on a flue running up through a property in boxing had completely come off. Fortunately this was discovered and rectified before the oil-fired boiler was used.

Flue cover

This wall flue discharges onto a patch of waste ground. The danger is that foliage will grow up and block it. Always ensure all flues are kept clear of plants, rubbish or anything else that can block them. This sort of thing should be picked up by heating engineers during routine servicing.

Wall flue

Further Reading

Further general information about the dangers of Carbon Monoxide and the symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning can be found at http://www.co-bealarmed.co.uk/