The rap on CO. As we reviewed in our Heating Chapter, Carbon Monoxide or CO is a killer. It is produced when fuel is burned inefficiently and is a particularly nasty by-product of petrol engines, especially portable generators.
The potential for CO production on a canal boat is high. We use multi-fuel stoves, gas heating, oil heating, gas stoves and hobs and generators.
The problem with CO is that it is odourless, colourless and tasteless. It disperses evenly into air and can make you drowsy. Despite the seriousness of CO, detectors are not fitted as standard on boats.
When your BSS examiner
is inspecting your gas appliances he will look for tell tale signs in the flame. If the flame is yellow or orange, elongated and if there is evidence of soot of staining around appliances, he will advise you of their potential inefficiency.
If you’re on a boat reading this, stop now & go and check yours. If you suspect anything is not quite what it should be, get your heating specialist or Gas Safe marine trained engineer in to service your system. It’s not worth the risk!
In the event of an appliance fault or inefficiency over time due to wear & tear, an essential first line of defence against death is a CO detector.
A smoke alarm will not detect CO.
They are not expensive, ranging from £20 upwards for good quality units. It should have an audible alarm and if possible a strobe light which alerts those who are hard of hearing. Portable detectors are also available (freestanding and wall mountable) and ideal if you don’t live abroad as can be used in the home, caravan etc. One manufacturer claims the sealed in battery will last 7 years after which it will emit a beep every so often to remind you to get a replacement.
Look out for BS-EN 50291 as a sign of approval.
Do not rely on stick-on colour changing dots. They are not worth the money and will not wake you at night.
Install as you would your smoke detector, at least 1m away from appliances. Follow the makers instructions in all cases.