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Carbon Monoxide Posioning - Recognising the signs in your home and how to address them

Cabon Monoxide in your home - The Silent Killer

Last year we installed a new gas fire in our house. Although it worked well both my husband and I felt drowsy after a few minutes in the room with it on. There was no major gas smell in the room but I am worried that it may have been emitting carbon monoxide. I’d like to have it sorted before I need to turn it on this winter – can you please help?


I would recommend that you put these suggestions into practise sooner rather than later as it always better to err on the side of caution where carbon monoxide is suspected. Many readers may be thinking that it is all to easy to fall asleep in front of a warming fire, after a hard days work, during a cold winters night – but its worthwhile making sure that the source of your comfort is as friendly as it feels.

There is a simple process of detecting carbon monoxide in your home but, before we go into it, it is worthwhile going through the dangers and causes of carbon monoxide. I should start by stressing how dangerous carbon monoxide is to humans – it is widely held to be the most toxic substance that we come across in our daily lives and any suspicion of its presence should be treated with urgency.

Carbon Monoxide is a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas that is produced when there is incomplete combustion of fossil fuels such as natural gas, coal, oil and wood. In a domestic setting it usually occurs when an appliance – such as a gas fire, boiler, water heater etc. – is not working correctly and fails to burn its fuel properly (usually through a lack of air). This means that CO is emitted from the appliance into the atmosphere and, where there is insufficient ventilation in a property, it can lead to a dangerous or even fatal accumulation of the gas. This is very relevant in today’s Ireland where property owners are focused on energy efficiencies and insulation, often at the expense of proper venting at home. Once inhaled, CO effectively blocks the absorption of oxygen into our blood streams, in severe cases causing brain damage and ultimately death. Early symptoms of carbon dioxide poisoning include headaches, nausea, fatigue and dizziness among others and it can sometimes be mistaken for the flu as it shares some of its symptoms. If you are in doubt, extinguish your appliance and go to your local GP explaining your symptoms requesting a test for CO poisoning.  Carbon monoxide poisoning claims many lives every year and everyone should be aware of it.

The fact that CO is undetectable to human senses makes it deadly and we can easily expose ourselves to it unknowingly for a prolonged period of time. There are, however, a few tell tale signs that you can look out for in detecting that your gas fire is emitting CO which include the following:

  • Instead of burning with a blue flame it burns with an orange / yellow flame
  • There is a build up of soot or discolouration around the fire (often on the coal effect)
  • The fire burns sporadically – often extinguishing easily
  • There is excessive condensation on the windows of the room

These symptoms, even in the absence of the physical symptoms described above, should give you a strong indication of the presence of CO in your home. It is also important to purchase a carbon monoxide alarm for your home – every home should have at least one such device as a precautionary measure. While not always 100% effective they will provide you with an extra layer of protection that you could not otherwise have. You can purchase these devices from your local hardware shop or online in Ireland through To confirm any suspicions, you should always contact a qualified gas service agent through reliable services such as Such agents will not only be able to confirm the presence of CO in your home but will also be able to address it.

It fairly obvious in the case of CO emissions that prevention is far superior to the cure – you don’t want to needlessly expose yourself or your family to its deadly influence for any time at all if you can help it. The good news is that you can help it by following a few simple steps it. By ensuring that your gas fire / appliance is serviced at least once a year by a qualified gas service agent can significantly reduce the occurrence of such emissions. It is also vital to ensure that the room that ‘hosts’ the gas fire is adequately ventilated – check that all vents are open, unobstructed and there are enough in the room – and make sure all chimneys and flues are clear. It is recommended that you only install room sealed appliances, appliances where the air intake vent and discharge vent are both external to the room and sealed off from its inhabitants. Get that CO detector and install one anywhere there is a fuel burning appliance.

By Blog 1 - Ted Laverty - Leaning on a Shovel @ Wednesday, January 12, 2011 10:14 AM
Comments from the following blog entry: Carbon monoxide detectors and alarms to prevent poisioning, located at:

By Blog 1 - Ted Laverty - Leaning on a Shovel @ Wednesday, January 12, 2011 10:33 AM
Comments from the following blog entry: Carbon monoxide detectors and alarms to prevent poisioning, located at:

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