Being safe with gas at home - Carbon monoxide

Dangers of gas - Carbon monoxide:

Carbon monoxide is an odourless, colourless and poisonous gas that can escape in your home without you knowing. You can’t see it, taste it or smell it, but it can kill quickly. It can also cause serious long-term health problems, such as brain damage. The people most at risk are children, pregnant women and anyone with breathing or heart problems.

If your gas appliances haven’t been properly installed or looked after, they can produce deadly carbon monoxide. It’s created when there’s not enough oxygen in the air to completely burn the fuel, resulting in CO rather than CO2.

What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

It’s easy to mistake carbon monoxide poisoning for something less serious as the symptoms are similar to that of the flu, food poisoning, viral infections and tiredness.

The main symptoms are:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Breathlessness
  • Collapse
  • Loss of consciousness

You’re most at risk from carbon monoxide poisoning when you’re asleep, as you might not notice the early symptoms. You should watch out for these tell-tale signs too:

  • You only get your symptoms when you’re at home
  • Your symptoms disappear or get better when you leave home – and come back when you return
  • Other people in your home are getting symptoms and they happen at the same time, this includes your pets if you have any.
If you think you or someone else might be affected by carbon monoxide poisoning, you should get out into the open air and get medical help straight away.

How can I prevent monoxide poisoning?

Here are our gas safety tips:

  • Get all your appliances checked at least every 12 months by a Gas Safe registered engineer
  • Keep your ventilation clear in rooms with appliances using gas, solid fuel or oil
  • Get someone to regularly check your chimneys and flues for blockages
  • Install a carbon monoxide alarm with EN 50291 approval, but please note that this is not a substitute for a gas safety check

A carbon monoxide alarm looks and acts like a smoke alarm, but instead of detecting smoke; it makes a sound when it detects carbon monoxide. You can buy one for under £20 at your local DIY store or supermarket; and they’re really easy to fit.

We suggest that you do not buy a ‘black spot’ detector as they only change colour when they pick up carbon monoxide, they won’t make any noise, so won’t wake you up when you’re asleep.

Always check that yours is officially approved to EN 50291 standards before you buy (this replace the British Standard BS7860 in April 2006). It must also have a British or European approval mark on it, like a Kitemark. You should always read your alarm’s instructions too so you fit, check and service it the right way.

How do I spot a problem with my gas appliance?

You cannot always tell that something’s wrong just by looking at your gas appliance but you should follow the steps in the next question if you spot any of these things:

  • The outside case is discoloured
  • The decoration around your appliance is stained with soot marks or discoloured
  • The pilot light goes out a lot and your appliance burns with a yellow or orange flame
  • There’s lots of condensation and a strange smell when your appliance is on
  • The flue is damaged or broken

What should I do if I think my gas appliance is leaking carbon monoxide?

Do these things straight away:

  • Switch off your gas appliance and don’t use it again until it’s fixed.
  • Shut off your gas supply at the meter control valve (if you know where it is). If gas keeps escaping, call the National Grid on their Gas Emergency Freephone Number 0800 111 999 or by textphone on 0800 371 787. They are open 24 hours a day, every day, including Bank Holidays.
  • Open all doors and windows to let fresh air in the room, and don’t sleep in it.
  • Go to your GP right away, tell them you think your symptoms could be to do with carbon monoxide poisoning and ask for a blood and/or breath sample.
  • Get a Gas Safe registered engineer to fix your appliances

Getting a free gas safety check - Who can get one for free?

Anybody who:

  • Hasn’t had a gas safety check in the last 12 months
  • Is on means-tested benefit
  • Doesn’t live in a rented property (If you do live in a rented property your landlord should take care of that and check your appliances every year under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974)

And can say yes to one of these:

  • You live with other people and at least one of them is a child under five years old
  • You’re a pensioner, disabled or chronically sick and you live alone
  • You’re a pensioner, disabled or chronically sick and you live with others who are all disabled, pensioners, chronically sick or under 18 years old

If that’s you, please let us know and we’ll sort out your free gas safety check with a certified Gas Safe registered engineer and if they spot anything that’s faulty or not safe when they’re there, they’ll disconnect your gas supply before they leave.

If not, you can always arrange your own gas safety check; just make sure you use an engineer who’s on the Gas Safe Register.

How do I book a free gas safety check?

How do I book a free gas safety check?

The answer is in the last but one paragraph.