Sources of carbon monoxide poisoning and signs to look out for

What causes carbon monoxide?

There are a several potential carbon monoxide sources in the home. It’s produced when fossil fuels burn incorrectly or there is incomplete combustion.

Common potential sources of a carbon monoxide leak in the home include:

  • Boilers
  • Furnaces
  • Gas or kerosene heaters
  • Water heaters
  • Gas tumble dryers
  • Fireplaces
  • Charcoal grills
  • Wood stoves
  • Gas cooking stoves

However, other sources include:

  • BBQs
  • Lawn mowers
  • Camp stoves
  • Motor vehicles
  • Some power tools with internal combustion engines
  • Paint fumes
  • Smoking (particularly shisha pipes)

So it’s worth being aware that even in summer, carbon monoxide leaks can still be a threat, especially as boilers are used regularly to heat water.

What signs to look out for

You can tell if a gas appliance is working properly by looking at the flame. If it’s bright blue, it’s healthy. If it’s yellowy orange, there may be a carbon monoxide presence which could be dangerous.

Other signs of a carbon monoxide leak include:

  • Brownish-yellow or sooty stains around the appliance
  • Pilot lights that frequently blow out
  • Heavy condensation in the room where the appliance is installed
  • Fumes or smoke in the house
  • Slower than usual burning of solid fuel fires
  • Absence of an upward draft in chimney flues
  • Fallen soot in fireplaces

How to avoid carbon monoxide leaks:

Regular checks and careful attention to ventilation can be all it takes to avoid the risks associated with carbon monoxide poisoning

  • Get your gas appliances serviced annually by a Gas Safe registered engineer. If you’re responsible for your gas appliances (this is likely to be the case if you own your home) we can arrange for a gas safety check, which could be free if you’re eligible. See if you qualify at our Free gas safety check page.
  • Make sure rooms are well ventilated
  • Have your chimneys and flues checked regularly
  • Never use BBQs, grills or charcoal fuel burners inside, or in unventilated spaces
  • Fit at least one carbon monoxide detector on every level of your home and test them regularly. Find out more about carbon monoxide alarms.

Find out what to do it you suspect a carbon monoxide leak in your home.

Next: Detecting carbon monoxide