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 often found on narrowboats

Carbon Monoxide Detectors… What Do You Need To Know?

Carbon monoxide alarms are vital on a narrowboat

The potential for CO production on a narrow 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 narrowboats.

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. As of 1st April 2019 a CO alarm will become mandatory for BSS, where the examiner will ensure the alarms are in good condition and in appropriate locations. Full details can be found on the BSS website.

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.

CO alarms 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. Never install an alarm directly above a source of heat or steam. If wall mounting an alarm, fix it high up but at least 150mm from the ceiling and 300mm from cabin sides and bulk heads. Ensure the alarm can be heard when asleep. The alarm must also be in open view.

The carbon monoxide alarm must be no more than 10m away from any door in to any accommodation space. Having the alarm within 10m of any internal door will help to ensure that an alarm activation will be heard by all on-board.

It is strongly recommended to have a carbon monoxide alarm in the same space as any solid fuel stove, so a narrow boat with more than one stove would require additional alarms.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning… The Low Down

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a highly poisonous gas that weighs the same as air. It is known as the silent killer as it cannot be seen, smelt or tasted. When you inhale carbon monoxide, it replaces oxygen in your bloodstream.

If you have CO in your narrowboat, everyone on board is at risk, however some people can be affected more quickly including babies and young children, older persons, pregnant ladies and anyone with heart or respiratory conditions. Also if someone has been heavily drinking, the symptoms can be masked.

Just a very small amount of CO can cause serious side effects such as headaches, memory loss and lack of concentration. Whereas high levels of CO poisoning can leave a person with long term brain damage. Ultimately though, CO poisoning can kill a person in a matter of minutes.

Common symptoms of CO poisoning include headaches, feeling sick & dizzy, tired & confused and stomach pains.

If you think you may have CO poisoning you need to act fast by getting all people and animals outside of your narrowboat in to fresh air. Leave doors and windows open and isolate any appliances if possible. Then seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

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crick boat show 2024

(Saturday 25 to Monday 27 May 2024)


Britain's biggest inland waterways show.

Advance tickets can be ordered by phone and online until 12midday on Friday 17 May 2024. If you are planning to purchase advance tickets, we recommend that you do so well before this deadline to allow time for postal delivery.
Children 16 and under – free entry Saturday, Sunday, Monday

Trade & Preview Day – Friday 24 May 2024
Get ahead and visit The Fit Out Pontoon before everyone else on Preview Day!
Preview Day tickets are strictly limited to a maximum of 1,000 pre-booked visitors and give entry to the Show from 10am – 6pm on Friday 24 May.