Carbon monoxide is a poisonous, odourless, tasteless, invisible gas, which is the result of the incomplete combustion from any flame-producing appliance.
Carbon monoxide can harm you if you are exposed to high levels over a short period of time, or to lower levels over a long period of time. Low levels of carbon monoxide poisoning cause symptoms similar to those of the flu or a cold, including shortness of breath on mild exertion, mild headaches, and nausea. Higher levels of poisoning lead to dizziness, mental confusion, severe headaches, nausea, and fainting on mild exertion.
Carbon monoxide detectors are set to sound an alarm before the exposure to carbon monoxide would present a hazard to a healthy adult.
Current legislation states that if you have installed a wood burning or multifuel stove a carbon monoxide alarm is required.
What to do if the carbon monoxide alarm goes off
Don’t ignore the alarm! It is intended to go off before you are experiencing symptoms.
Get all members of the household to fresh air, and ask whether anyone is experiencing any of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.
If anyone is experiencing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, call 999.
Ventilate the building, and stop using the stove.
Check your chimney
You may be concerned that the stove is at fault, but it is almost invariably to do with the chimney not functioning as it should. A stove is designed to continue burning without leaking smoke even if the doors are open, so even when there is an incomplete seal the stove should draw in air, not let out smoke.
If the chimney and stove are new then it is most likely to do with downdraft – ie smoke being puffed back into the room. The normal solution is to increase the chimney height and fit an anti-downdraft cowl.
If the stove has been fitted for a fair while without problems then it is most likely that the chimney needs sweeping.
Where should I place a Carbon Monoxide Detector?
Because carbon monoxide is slightly lighter than air and also because it may be found with warm, rising air, detectors should be placed on a wall about 5 feet above the floor. The detector may be placed on the ceiling.
Do not place the detector right next to or over a fireplace or flame-producing appliance. Keep the detector out of the way of pets and children. Each floor of the building needs a separate detector.