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Carbon Monoxide Safety: How Safe is Your Boiler?

Also known as The Silent Killer, carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that can cause severe illness or even death.

Your boiler is a clever piece of equipment that helps to ensure your home has plenty of heating and hot water, making it one of the most important appliances in your property. But are you aware that your boiler can produce a highly poisonous gas, otherwise known as carbon monoxide? The trouble is, you can’t see, smell or taste carbon monoxide, which means you’ll have no idea if it’s leaking into your home. Having said that, there are some simple steps and precautions you can take to protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning.

We’re going to explain the dangers of carbon monoxide linked with boilers and how you can keep your home and family safe from this deadly gas.

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What is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is an odourless, colourless gas produced by certain household appliances, like cookers and tumble dryers. Any appliance that burns fuel, be it gas, oil, coal or wood, can produce carbon monoxide but boilers are the most common source of carbon monoxide in the home environment. Breathing in carbon monoxide can make you dizzy, tired and extremely unwell and too much exposure can damage your brain or even kill you. Although
carbon monoxide can occur naturally, it usually escapes into a home as a result of a faulty, poorly maintained or incorrectly installed appliance, such as a boiler.

Ways to Check Your Boiler for Carbon Monoxide Leaks

There are some key warning signs that can help you determine if your boiler is faulty and leaking carbon monoxide, such as:

  • Black stains near your boiler: If you notice black marks and stains either on or near your boiler, call in a Gas Safe registered engineer to inspect it immediately as carbon monoxide could be present as a result of a leak in the flue.
  • Interior window condensation: Check the inside of the windows that are near or in the same room as your boiler for condensation. Internal condensation could be a sign that exhaust gases are struggling to leave your property, leading them to escape indoors instead. Again, get a Gas Safe registered engineer to check it out.
  • Pilot light keeps blowing out or changes colour: A boiler’s pilot light shouldn’t repeatedly blow out as it’s meant to stay on all the time. The pilot light should also be blue. If the pilot light keeps going out or changes from blue to yellow, it could be that there’s a lack of oxygen available for the gas to burn, which can cause carbon monoxide to build up within your house. As it’s unsafe for you to tamper with your boiler, you’ll need to get it fully inspected by a Gas Safe registered engineer.

Common Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Symptoms

It’s really difficult to detect carbon monoxide in your home because it can’t be heard and it doesn’t have a colour or smell. According to the NHS, there are around 60 deaths a year from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning in Wales and England.

The symptoms aren’t always obvious when exposed to low levels but there are some carbon
monoxide poisoning symptoms to look out for, including:

  • Tension headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Tiredness
  • Confusion
  • Stomach pain
  • Breathlessness
  • Loss of consciousness

If you ever detect signs of a carbon monoxide leak in your home, immediately turn off your gas appliances, open all windows and doors and get every member of your household to leave the building. You should then call a Gas Safe registered engineer to come to your house, and you must remain outside while you wait for them to arrive and test for carbon monoxide leaks. Lastly, make sure you and your family or housemates get checked by a medical professional.

The Importance of Getting Your Boiler Serviced

You should get your boiler serviced annually by a Gas Safe registered engineer to help maximize reliability and performance, as well as to avoid costly repairs. But these aren’t the only reasons to have your boiler serviced every year. A boiler service also involves an engineer carrying out safety checks so that any blockages, faults or signs of potential carbon monoxide leaks can be detected early. By keeping your boiler well-serviced and maintained,
you’ll significantly reduce the risk of your boiler producing carbon monoxide and help protect yourself and your family from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

There is another way to protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning in addition to regular boiler servicing, and that’s by getting a carbon monoxide alarm or detector for your home. Carbon monoxide detectors are similar to smoke alarms in that can detect an issue in your home much quicker than you can and alert you by sounding a loud alarm as soon as they sense potential dangers.

It’s recommended that you have a carbon monoxide detector fitted on each floor and in every room where a fuel-burning appliance is installed to maximize the protection of you and your home from carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide detectors are affordable and quite easy to install but you must remember to test them regularly in case the battery needs replacing.

Don’t forget that your boiler needs regular servicing and maintenance to ensure
everything is operating safely and to prevent serious issues arising, such as carbon
monoxide leaks. And remember to only let a Gas Safe registered engineer inspect and
service your boiler as they will be fully trained and qualified to carry out the work.

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