carbon monoxide

carbon monoxide

Reported cases of carbon monoxide poisoning, often dubbed the ‘silent killer’, have increased significantly in the past twelve months. As reported in the press around 1,800 properties have been affected in the past year across Devon and Cornwall. This represents an increase of 134% year on year. So what exactly is carbon monoxide and where does it come from? What do you need to do in order to ensure your holiday home is safe from any potential issues?

What is carbon monoxide and where does it come from?

Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that has no smell or taste. It is a silent killer that causes around 25 deaths across the UK every year. It’s produced when fuel doesn’t burn properly or completely. Poor fitting and maintenance of appliances such as cookers, boilers and wood burners being the most common causes in households across the UK.

How can it be detected and what are the symptoms of poisoning?

Because the gas has no smell or taste, it’s impossible to know that you’re being subjected to it until symptoms appear or it’s potentially too late. The early symptoms of potential carbon monoxide poisoning can include:

  1. Headache
  2. Feeling nauseous (sick) or dizzy.
  3. You may also feel tired or suffer confusion.
  4. Some people are physically sick (vomiting) and can show signs of abdominal pain.
  5. After further exposure individuals have also been known to suffer memory loss, confusion and problems with coordination.

The issue with many of the early symptoms is that they can often resemble everyday aches and pains. For example having a headache or feeling tired after a long day! Many may also resemble the flu; however, the key difference is that CO poisoning will not cause the individual to have a temperature.

What do you need to do as a holiday homeowner?

There are a number of steps that you need to take as a holiday homeowner to ensure the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning are minimised for your guests:

Use approved installation and service engineers 

Make sure that all appliances within your holiday home have been correctly installed and are maintained by a professional on a regular basis. Any tradesperson undertaking work in your holiday let should also have the relevant accreditation for their trade. For example, if you’re having a new gas boiler fitted the work should be undertaken by a business that is on the Gas Safety Register:

Fit carbon monoxide alarms in your holiday home

Your cottage should be fitted with carbon monoxide alarms in any area in which fuel is burned. Recent research has shown that 80% of homeowners aren’t sure whether or not their own alarm is working. And many are not aware of the difference in sound from their smoke alarm. For this reason, ensure that your holiday home checks include testing of fire and CO alarms on a very regular basis to ensure they’re both functional.

Have your chimneys and flues regularly swept

Although carbon monoxide poisoning is often associated with gas appliances, blocked chimney flues are one of the most common causes of CO in homes across the UK. If your holiday home has a chimney and working fire it should be swept on a regular basis and particularly after long periods of inactivity. You can find out more about chimney sweeping and safety in our blog here:

Ensure your holiday home is well-ventilated

CO is able to build up in rooms and areas of your cottage that are not well-ventilated. Ensure that your cottage has plenty of ventilation in areas that are burning fuel and that air bricks are not blocked by furniture or any other item.

You can watch a useful video on preventing carbon monoxide poisoning here:

Boshers offer specialist holiday home insurance to owners across the UK. Would you like an insurance quote for your holiday letting property? Give us a call on 01237 429444.

smoke and carbon monoxide alarms

smoke and carbon monoxide alarmsWith 450 household fire incidents across the country each and every day (170,000 in the past year), the government has recently promised to get tougher on fire prevention.

On 11 March 2015 the housing minister Brandon Lewis announced that residential landlords in England will now be required by law to install working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in their properties, with the aim of preventing as many as 26 deaths and 670 injuries caused by household fires each year. Holiday homeowners should already be abiding by the relevant fire safety legislation which applies to those providing accommodation to paying guests and may already in response to their general risk assessments be installing carbon monoxide detectors in rooms with fuel burning appliances, stoves and heating boilers.

Landlords required by law to install working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms

When will the legislation come into force?

These new measures regarding smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are expected to come into force from October 2015 and it is hoped that many of the 46 fire and rescue authorities across England will help their local communities meet these new responsibilities by providing free alarms, with grant funding from the government to help them do so.

Do fire alarms reduce the risk?

Statistics have shown that people are four times more likely to die in a house fire if they don’t have a working smoke alarm.  Remember, those staying in your holiday home will not be as familiar with the layout and design of your cottage as they are with their own home, meaning that if a fire were to take place, particularly during the night, early warning and identification of a fire is vital to their safety and protection.

How many fire alarms do you need and how do you ensure they’re in working condition?

  • You should have a minimum of one smoke alarm on each floor of your letting property. They need to be clearly audible in all areas so your tenants may hear them in all rooms.
  • Smoke alarms should be tested on a regular basis and in ideal circumstances each week. As this may be difficult if you live a good distance from your holiday home or during peak periods, ensure that someone is designated with the responsibility of checking all of your fire alarms, and that a record is kept of when they were last checked.
  • Your smoke alarms and or their batteries should be replaced in accordance with the manufacturers instructions, even if the alarm is showing no signs of fault.

Why is carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning a risk to your tenants?

Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that has no smell or taste, meaning it can be inhaled without you or your guests realising. For this reason it is known as the ‘silent killer’, accounting for 40 deaths and 200 visits to hospital each year in the UK.

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can include dizziness, nausea, tiredness and confusion, stomach pain and a shortness of breath.

What are the most common causes of carbon monoxide poisoning?

Carbon monoxide is produced when fuels such as gas, oil, coal or wood do not burn fully. The most common causes of carbon monoxide poisoning in holiday homes are:

  • Faulty household appliances: You have a legal obligation to ensure that any electrical appliance with the potential to cause injury is kept in a safe condition for visitors to use. Make sure that all appliances in your holiday home are PAT tested by a competent professional.
  • Blocked chimneys: There are approximately 6,000 chimney fires in England each year. Ensure your chimney is swept after any long period of inactivity (wood burning fires should be swept quarterly when in use). This is particularly important if you let your property during the winter months.
  • Burning fuel in an enclosed or unventillated space: This will most commonly be through a faulty boiler in your residential let property or holiday home. Ensure your boiler is serviced and gas safety inspected and approved by a qualified professional on a regular basis and also make sure guests only enjoy barbeques in well ventilated areas.

Carbon monoxide detectors can be bought in the same format as portable fire alarms, or hard wired into your let property or holiday home.

Boshers offer specialist holiday home insurance to owners across the UK as well as let property insurance for buy to let landlords. For more information on how a specialist insurer can help and support your holiday home business, please give us a call on 01237 429444.

Carbon Monoxide Be Alarmed Campaign

Carbon Monoxide Be Alarmed CampaignThis winter, make sure you protect yourself and your guests from carbon monoxide poisoning. As holiday home insurance specialists we provide financial peace of mind for holiday home owners should an insured peril occur and lead to a claim. Responsible holiday cottage owners and holiday home letting agents  give consideration to the safety of their guests. It’s important to furnish yourself with up to date information and for this reason Boshers are pleased to promote the Carbon Monoxide – Be Alarmed! campaign.

It’s widely known that fitting a smoke detector in residential properties is essential to ensure the safety of its residents. However, awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning, and of the importance of installing a carbon monoxide alarm in a property, remains low. Only 39% of people surveyed recently by the Carbon Monoxide – Be Alarmed! campaign said that they had an alarm in their home – and other evidence suggests that the true figure is actually much lower.

Carbon monoxide is a deadly gas which can kill or cause long-term damage to your health. According to the Department of Health, around 50 people each year die from carbon monoxide poisoning and thousands more are treated in hospital. Carbon monoxide is produced when fuels such as gas, oil, charcoal, coal and wood do not burn completely. The most common cause of this is when an appliance, such as a boiler or cooker, is installed incorrectly or is poorly maintained. Carbon monoxide can also build up when flues, chimneys or vents are blocked. It’s therefore vital that holiday home owners ensure all appliances are installed correctly and serviced annually by a qualified and registered engineer. You can find out more about this on the Carbon Monoxide – Be Alarmed! website here.

Carbon Monoxide Be alarmed ChecklistHowever, given that carbon monoxide is odourless, tasteless and invisible, there is only one way to ensure that you protect yourselves and your guests from carbon monoxide poisoning – by installing an audible carbon monoxide alarm in your property. Alarms are available from £15 and can be bought at DIY stores, some supermarkets, or directly from energy suppliers. You can read more about purchasing and installing an alarm here.

Although it’s not currently a legal requirement in Great Britain for houses to have an alarm fitted, carbon monoxide poisoning is tragic and easily preventable. Install an alarm today and make sure your family, and your guests, do not fall victim to carbon monoxide poisoning.

For a quotation for holiday home insurance for your UK commercially let holiday home call Boshers on 01237 429444 or find out more about our holiday home insurance here.