A Guide to Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Installing an audible carbon monoxide alarm could well save your life, as these low maintenance monitors can alert you to harmful fumes that would otherwise be impossible to detect. Find out about the risks of CO poisoning on our carbon monoxide symptoms page.

Choosing the best carbon monoxide detector for your home

The most important thing to look for when purchasing is that the carbon monoxide detector you choose complies with relevant European safety standards (clearly marked with the EN 50291) and carries the Kitemark symbol to show it is an official and effective product.

Secondly, ensure that you choose an audible alarm, as these are the most effective way to ensure you are notified to any carbon monoxide leaks as quickly as possible. These should make a loud beeping sound, as opposed to ‘black spot’ alarms, which you would need to visibly check.

You can choose between a battery or mains powered carbon monoxide alarm. Battery powered will give you more flexibility on placement, but be aware that you will need to replace the battery regularly if your monitor allows this, or the whole alarm if it is sealed.

Detecting carbon monoxide

Carbon monoxide detectors are available in most DIY shops, online, or through us here at npower. We’d recommend the Nest Protect smart smoke and carbon monoxide alarm for your home, which is currently only £78 for npower customers. Or our standard detector is available at £29.99.

Where to install a carbon monoxide detector

Each detector will come with its own recommendations for fitting, but you can follow some of the guidelines below when choosing where to place the alarm in your home:

  • You’ll want the alarm to wake you if a leak occurs in the night, so keep your carbon monoxide detector in a place where you can hear the alert easily enough to wake you if necessary
  • Preferably, you should place an alarm on each floor of your home and in the same room as each fuel-burning appliance
  • When installing, always consult the manufacturer’s instructions on how to use and where to place your carbon monoxide detector
  • Detectors should ideally be at a horizontal distance of between one to three metres from the potential source (boiler, fire, cooker, heater etc.) because these appliances can sometimes release a burst of carbon monoxide upon start up, causing the alarm to go off unnecessarily
  • Some manufacturers also recommend placing the alarm towards the ceiling, as the warmer air from the fuel burning appliance can sometimes rise. Ideally this will be above door and window height, around six inches or more below the ceiling, at least one foot away from a corner
  • If you’re fitting a carbon monoxide alarm in a bedroom that doesn’t have a potential CO source in it, it’s ideal to fit the alarm at the same height that you sleep. This means that the alarm will read gas in the same way that you would breathe it in bed

Carbon monoxide detector testing

You should regularly check the battery life of your CO alarm and test it using the in-built test button, much in the same way you would a smoke detector.

Understanding carbon monoxide levels

Most CO detectors have screens showing the reading of carbon monoxide gas levels. These are usually measured in parts per million (PPM). Anything below 35PPM is considered safe for exposure over an 8 hour period. 200PPM is where mild symptoms are likely to occur and anything over 400PPM is considered extremely dangerous.

What to do if your carbon monoxide detector alarm goes off

If you hear you carbon monoxide detector going off at any point, you should immediately do the following:

  • Turn off any appliances that could be the source of carbon monoxide
  • Open doors and windows to let fresh air into your home
  • Check everyone in your home is awake and accounted for
  • If anyone is exhibiting symptoms of CO poisoning, contact a GP or medical professional immediately
  • At the earliest opportunity, contact a qualified gas safe registered engineer to check all possible sources to locate the problem area

Legal requirements for carbon monoxide detectors

Recent regulations state that all landlords are legally required to put carbon monoxide alarms in any properties they rent out which contain a solid fuel burning combustion appliance. For homeowners, it is heavily advised to have CO alarms fitted throughout your home, although this is not yet legislation.

Next: Symptoms of carbon monoxide