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Do I Need a Carbon Monoxide Detector with a Combi Boiler?


Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas produced during the incomplete combustion of gas, LPG, oil, petrol, wood, or coal fuels. And since your combi boiler is running on one of the mentioned fuels, it naturally produces carbon monoxide when it cannot completely burn this fuel.

Usually, the carbon monoxide produced in your boiler is channelled outside the property and released into the atmosphere through the flue. However, if your boiler’s flue is blocked, the carbon monoxide is trapped in the boiler and will escape and build up in your home. The carbon monoxide may also leak from the boiler if there are some loose seals.

And since carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas, you won’t be able to detect its presence in your home. As such, you and your family will be exposed to the deadly effects of carbon monoxide.

It is, therefore, unsurprising to see why close to 4,000 people are hospitalised due to carbon monoxide poisoning in the UK every year. And of the 4,000, at least 50 people would succumb to the poisoning. A worrying statistic indeed.

What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

Carbon monoxide is denser than air, meaning it will displace the oxygen in the room. With insufficient oxygen levels in your home, you will start breathing in carbon monoxide. Once inside your bloodstream, the carbon monoxide prevents oxygen from circulating in the body, and you may begin to experience symptoms such as:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Visual problems
  • Chest pains
  • A general feeling of tiredness

If the concentration of the carbon monoxide inhaled is high, one can easily collapse and lose consciousness. Extreme levels of carbon monoxide poisoning may also result in death.

What is a carbon monoxide detector?

A carbon monoxide detector is a device that is set to trigger an alarm when a certain level of carbon monoxide has accumulated in your home. They work in the same way as smoke alarms, emitting sharp beeping sounds whenever it detects an accumulation of carbon monoxide around its location.

As such, a carbon monoxide detector can warn occupants of the room or building of the presence of the deadly carbon monoxide gas. With this early warning, the occupants can evacuate before they start experiencing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Should I install a carbon monoxide detector with my combi boiler?

Unless you fancy fighting an invisible enemy while you’re blindfolded, the answer is a resounding YES! A carbon monoxide detector will be able to guarantee your safety and your family’s by warning you if there are any carbon monoxide leaks in your home.

Therefore, it is advisable to fit a carbon monoxide detector in every room in your home that has a gas appliance, including the boiler.

Even though combi boilers are sealed units, they can still allow carbon monoxide to leak out of the system, especially when they are old or some seals haven’t been tightly fitted.

However, if you are installing a new combi boiler, the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning is almost non-existent. You may, therefore, not need to trouble yourself with fitting a detector.

Benefits of installing a carbon monoxide detector

Early warning signs

Having learnt the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning, you wouldn’t want a leak catching you unaware. A carbon monoxide detector gives you peace of mind knowing that it will inform you of the presence of the deadly gas even before you start experiencing symptoms of its poisoning.

The beeping sound is loud enough to be heard by all room occupants

Upon sensing carbon monoxide in the room or house, the detector sends out loud beeps that all building occupants can hear. This feature is helpful, especially when the carbon monoxide leak occurs at night. The loud beeps will wake you up and give you ample time to prepare and evacuate the building.

Allows you to identify faulty appliances in your home

Carbon monoxide detectors are able to monitor the functioning of the appliances in your home. If a device is not working correctly, the carbon monoxide detector will warn you of unhealthy carbon monoxide levels in the air. You can then organise to have your appliances checked by a professional heating engineer.

Notify you of a carbon monoxide emergency even when you’re not at home

Smart carbon monoxide detectors have central monitoring systems that allow you to check carbon monoxide levels in your home even when you are away. If these systems detect a carbon monoxide accumulation, it will send you a notification, and you can then call or dispatch responders if need be.

What to consider when purchasing carbon monoxide detectors 

If you’ve bought into the idea of protecting your family from carbon monoxide poisoning by installing carbon monoxide detectors, you might want some expert tips before heading to the market. Here are some of the factors you should consider when selecting a suitable detector from the myriads available in the market.

  • Budget: If you plan to install carbon monoxide detectors in every room of your home, the total cost will be high. It would be best if you looked for models that fit within your budget.
  • Visual and audible alarm: The audible alarm will inform you of a carbon monoxide buildup in your home by beeping. A visual alarm, on the other hand, will flash to indicate the same by flashing lights. Purchasing detectors with both alarms would be beneficial for detecting low levels of carbon monoxide in your home.
  • Power sources: Different carbon monoxide detectors have different power sources. Some detectors draw their power from batteries, others from sockets in your home, and others are hardwired into your home’s electricity. Some models use a combination of power sources. Choose one with a power source that suits your needs.
  • Sensor life: Carbon monoxide detectors typically last for 5 to 10 years. Choose a model that will give you the best longevity, of course, within your budget.

Where to install the carbon monoxide detectors in your home

As carbon monoxide detectors can potentially save your family’s lives, it is vital to install them in a place that will offer maximum protection against this poisonous gas.

Here are some perfect locations to install carbon monoxide detectors.

  • In every room containing a fuel-burning appliance and in every room through which flues from those appliances pass.
  • Away from enclosed spaces.
  • Away from windows, doors, or fans.
  • Between 1 metre and 3 metres horizontally from the fuel-burning appliance if you fit one in that room.
  • If the room doesn’t have an appliance, install the detector at head height or breathing level.

How to maintain the carbon monoxide detector in your home

After fitting carbon monoxide detectors and alarms in your home, you must regularly check them to ensure efficient performance. As part of this routine maintenance, ensure that you:

  • Test your carbon monoxide alarm at least once every 12 weeks.
  • Replace the carbon monoxide alarm batteries once every 12 months
  • Replace your alarm with a new one when it reaches its expiration date.
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