6 ways to protect yourself and your home from carbon monoxide

It’s not called the silent killer for nothing. Here’s part two of our Carbon Monoxide Week series.

THIS WEEK IS Carbon Monoxide Week, and as carbon monoxide poisoning is one of the most common (and preventable) causes of death by poisoning, we’re highlighting how to protect yourself and your family

On average, 6 people in Ireland die every year due to unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning. Yesterday, we ran a poll to see how many Irish people have a carbon monoxide alarm in their homes – do you?

To help you understand the threat of carbon monoxide and how you can protect yourself, we have six tips to look out for when it comes to carbon monoxide, your appliances and your home.

Be safe.

1. Know the causes of carbon monoxide poisoning

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The first step to protecting yourself is to know that you’re at risk in the first place. Carbon monoxide can be produced by any fuel that burns, including coal, turf, oil, gas and even wood. Dangerous levels of carbon monoxide can be produced by:

  • Badly installed, faulty or damaged heating appliances
  • Heating appliances that have not been maintained or serviced
  • Blocked or insufficient ventilation in rooms where a fuel-burning appliance is in use
  • Blocked chimneys or flues
  • Indoor use of a barbecue grill or outdoor heater
  • Improper operation of heating or cooking appliances
  • Property alterations or home improvements which reduce ventilation
  • Running engines such as vehicles or lawnmowers in garages
  • Using cooking appliances for heating purposes

2. Know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning

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At high levels, carbon monoxide can kill in as little as 3 minutes, but at lower levels it can cause illness. If you’re suffering from any of these symptoms, you could have a carbon monoxide problem on your hands:

  • Unexplained headaches, chest pains or muscular weakness
  • Sickness, diarrhoea or stomach pains
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • General lethargy

If your symptoms occur when a particular fuel burning appliance is in use, if they get better when you leave the property and/ or if other people or pets in the property are suffering from similar symptoms and you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning then:

  • Open doors and windows to ventilate the property.
  • Stop using fuel burning appliances immediately.
  • Get everyone in the property into fresh air
  • See a doctor immediately and ask him/ her to check for carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Don’t reuse appliances again until they have been checked by a competent service agent for your fuel type.

3. Have your appliances serviced regularly

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The best way to protect yourself is to ensure that your appliances are properly installed, serviced and maintained. That means using a competent service agent for your fuel type such as a Registered Gas Installer for gas or LPG appliances or an OFTEC registered oil technician for oil appliances.

It’s important to get your appliances serviced every year, just to make sure everything’s up to scratch. Of course, if you think you have a problem with an appliance, stop using it immediately and get it seen to as soon as possible. If you burn solid fuel, remember to get your chimney swept at least once a year.

4. Get an alarm


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As carbon monoxide is an odourless, colourless, poisonous gas there is no way to detect it other than by having an audible alarm installed.

In fact, you may need more than one alarm. A general rule of thumb is to have an alarm in every room you have a fuel-burning appliance and one within 5 metres (16 feet) of every bedroom. Additionally if you can’t hear the alarm in one part of the house, you need to have another that will pick up when the first is going off and go off too.

5. Be careful with home improvements

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If you’re doing any home improvements such as adding extensions or conservatories, or removing internal walls, make sure that your ventilation and flues aren’t blocked or compromised.

It’s important to get advice from a professional before embarking on any major works, especially if you’re changing a living area to a bedroom for instance.

6.  Be safe outside the home too

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Even when you’re away from home, remember: anything that burns fuel – kerosene heaters, engines, stoves, generators, barbecues etc. – can all emit carbon monoxide.

So if you own a holiday home, caravan, mobile home or boat, or even if you’re just going camping:

  • Ensure any fuel-burning appliances are properly installed, maintained and used correctly
  • Make sure there is adequate ventilation
  • Keep all vents and exhausts clear
  • Install an audible carbon monoxide alarm.

Many people don’t realise that barbecues can emit a lot of carbon monoxide, both whilst they’re burning and for several hours after they appear to have gone out. So always use a barbecue in a well-ventilated place and never bring it under a cover or awning, or inside a tent. And remember that safety standards in some parts of the world may not be the same as they are at home. Portable carbon monoxide alarms are available that can give you protection and peace of mind wherever you sleep.

Do you have a carbon monoxide alarm? Let us know in the comments below.

It’s Carbon Monoxide Week this week, so we’re helping to highlight its dangers. Carbon monoxide is impossible to detect without an alarm, so make sure you have one and check it regularly. Head over to CarbonMonoxide.ie to find out how to install alarms properly.

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Read: Poll: Do you have a carbon monoxide alarm in your home? 

Also: QUIZ: How Much Do You Know About Carbon Monoxide?