/ Home & Energy

We’re supporting Gas Safety Week: is your home gas safe?

This week is Gas Safety week, an annual campaign driven by the Gas Safe board to highlight the importance of gas safety to the nation. Is your home up to standard?

Firstly, I’d just like to introduce myself to you all. I’ve heard a lot about Which? Conversation and it’s great to be involved.

I’m the Trade Association Manager for Which? Trusted Traders, and this year I’ve been working very closely with many different areas of Which? to promote gas safety in the home and ensure as many consumers as possible are aware of how to keep their home ‘gas safe’.

Many different organisations are working together across different platforms to create some noise about Gas Safety Week 2018, and Which? Trusted Traders is no exception.

How we’re supporting #GSW18

There are between 25 and 50 carbon monoxide (CO) deaths in the UK every year, yet 39% of British households still don’t have a CO alarm installed.

Which? Trusted Traders has reached out to our endorsed gas engineers to assist us in protecting 1000 homes this season by handing out a free Which? Best Buy CO alarm on all new boiler installs carried out after 1 October.

We’re also providing a leaflet along with the alarm on tips on gas safety and how to recognise the signs of CO poisoning before it’s too late.

Do you know how to recognise the signs of CO poisoning?

Symptoms worsen with continued exposure, and can develop into chest pain, seizures and loss of consciousness.

If you experience symptoms that get better when you are away from the source of any potential problem, investigate the possibility of a carbon monoxide leak and arrange for a professional to check any appliances as soon as possible.

Installing an alarm

Installing a high-quality carbon monoxide alarm can give you peace of mind and ensure that any leaks are caught early, before your health or your family’s health is affected.

Fitting your carbon monoxide detector correctly is as important as buying the right one in the first place, as is testing it regularly and replacing batteries when they run low. You’ll need an alarm for each room in which you have a fuel-burning appliance, such as a gas boiler or a log burner.

When you’re having an alarm installed, always use a Gas Safe Registered Engineer – look for the yellow triangle and check the ID card before going ahead with gas work.

You’ll need one in every room where there are gas appliances, and it’ll need to be 15cm away from the ceiling and around one metre away from boilers and cookers. Make sure it’s not placed directly above heat or steam.

Your CO alarm does not need to be fixed to the wall – you can even put it on the shelf if it fits the above specification.

Did you know about Gas Safety Week this year? Do you have a CO alarm installed in your home? When was the last time you checked its batteries?

Comments
Member

Carbon monoxide alarms have a limited life and mine show this information on the back of the alarm, out of sight when mounted on the wall. In the past year I have seen alarms that are well beyond their expiry date.

I asked for this page to be altered to draw attention to the limited life, but this has not been done: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2018/09/nearly-four-in-ten-british-households-dont-have-a-carbon-monoxide-alarm/

Newer alarms may give an audible or visual warning that they should be replaced but that does not apply to all that are in use.

Member

Hope you’re well, wavechange. I did pass that request on – I was told that the limited life info does appear in our guide pages, and that future news stories will include it.

Also, a warm welcome to Which? Conversation for Poppy 🙂 It’s great to see other areas of Which? getting involved on here and, in this case, one of our other offices. I’m continuing to reach out to bring in more new faces (and make sure they stick around!)

Member

Hi George – Thanks for passing on the information. I’m a bit disappointed because if information is essential it’s important to put it on the first page and it does not really matter if it is duplicated. I really do appreciate what you are doing on our behalf.

Member

Hi Poppy @phynam – Until manufacturers stop doing daft things like putting important instructions on the back of carbon monoxide alarms I like your suggestion of putting alarms on a shelf, assuming that this does not interfere with response time.

Member

The standard for CO alarms is BS EN 50291-1:2018. Section 5.11 “Labelling” says:
“The apparatus shall carry durable label(s) or markings that carry the following information:
….
h) indication of the maximum lifetime recommended for the apparatus.

The marking shall be clearly visible with the apparatus in a typical installed position.

So your CO monitor does not comply with the standard and, if CE marked, should not be on the market. I hope when Which? recommend products that they do check against the relevant standard that the product complies. We all know about fake products and fake markings.

Member

If you would like to take this up with the manufacturer (Sprue) I am referring to First Alert Model CO410 Digital Carbon Dioxide Alarm, Type B. They are marked BS EN 50291-1:2010. “Replace alarm 6 years from date of purchase” is on the back, and there is a warning label on top, giving instructions about what to do if the alarm sounds. Mounted as suggested, that’s out of sight too. They were purchased from a shop, probably B&Q. I have marked the installation date as 12/12/14 and the lifetime as 6 years on the battery covers.

If we are to have standards then they need to be monitored for compliance.

Member

Hi @wavechange thank you for your comments. This is a really pressing subject and we are doing all we
can to make as many consumers aware of the risks of not having a CO alarm, but also having a CO alarm that is not fit for purpose. Our product testing teams have recommended that this does not interfere with response time – as long as you follow the guidelines for where the alarm should be placed, how far away from the appliance and not above steam.

Member

https://conversation.which.co.uk/home-energy/gas-safety-week-which-trusted-traders/#comment-1546079

I’m sure you could do this 🙂 . My services do not come cheap. However, here is a bit for free:

Sprue Aegis plc (renamed FireAngelSafety Technology Group plc).

FireAngel Safety Technology Limited
Phone: (024) 77-717-570
E-Mail: technicalsupport@fireangeltech.com
FireAngel Safety Technology Limited registered in England and Wales with Registered No. 3641019.
Registered Office: Bridge House, 4 Borough High Street, London SE1 9QR.

However Sprue does not seem to be one of the brands owned by Newell Brands that include First Alert.

Contact for EUROPE for First Alert

Newell Rubbermaid UK Limited
Halifax Avenue
Fradley Park
Lichfield
Staffordshire
WS13 8SS
United Kingdom
1. Phone: 0800 389 3921
2. Email: FirstAlertEurope@newellco.com

Member

“If we are to have standards then they need to be monitored for compliance.” We do have standards, and very good ones. I have been commenting for a long time that standards, like laws, are only of use if they are properly policed, to weed out the offenders before they cause too much damage.

Which? can help with this, as we have seen with Amazon and ebay. But officially this task is delegated to Trading Standards, who have been deprived of the funds necessary to fulfil that role.

Would you support a campaign by Which?, as part of “protecting consumers” to “demand” that the government restore adequate funding to allow proper policing of consumer products?

Member

Which? could and sometimes does point out problems but it is not their role to monitor compliance with standards. I suggest the organisations setting standards should be looking at compliance problems to better inform their work.

My carbon monoxide alarm is obsolete, but having installed the same model purchased by a friend, I know it’s not just mine that has concealed labels.

Member

When Which? checks products and assesses them as worth buying I would have thought they would do some basic checks, particularly compliance with relevant parts of standards. They put the CO alarms through, apparently, all the testing required by BS EN 50291-1:2018 and part of this requires compliance with instructions and marking. Maybe they should be more thorough.

Standards organisations prepare standards. Policing compliance is a totally different function. That is assigned to particular organisations in each EU state, in our case Trading Standards, and they should be either funded properly to do this work or replaced by another suitably resourced public body. BSI is not a public body but even if it were considered for this role (highly unlikely) it would still need equivalent funding. It is about money and resource.

Member

I do hope that Which? looks at compliance issues such as product labelling and adequacy of instructions when reviewing products, but there is no statutory duty for Which? to do this. Without organised study of the design and deficiencies of products offered for sale I don’t see how standards organisations can be as effective as they could be.

Member

Those involved in the preparation of standards will have in depth knowledge of the products they deal with. Many will be directly involved in their design, production, research development, testing as well as others with relevant specialist knowledge and skills. For products that are certified (e.g. Kitemarked) they will be independently audited from time to time, as will companies who are certified to ISO 9000 series. The producers are policed in this way – effectively from my experience.

However, there are delinquent manufacturers who pretend to have certification, pretend to make compliant products, stick on false CE marks, and essentially set out to sell fraudulent products, as we’ve seen with CO and smoke alarms for example. Standards bodies have no involvement with such companies and organisations. This is where the main thrust of policing should be.

Member

My carbon monoxide alarms are Kitemarked and manufactured by a well known company. They were not cheap ones and I chose them because they had a display. I expect I referred to the Which? tests before purchase but cannot be certain.

The alarms were manufactured to an earlier version of the standard, which may not have specified that information should be readily visible to the user.

Member

The earlier version of the standard (2010) has exactly the same requirements for marking as the latest (2018) edition. They claim Kite Mark certification and, if Which? wanted to pursue it (they are on the relevant committee I believe) they could check who tested it and whether the certificate is valid, in view of the marking.

This was interesting:
The The First Alert CO410 may not be suitable for UK Landlords because although it conforms to American standards (UL 2034), it has not been shown to meet BSI standards and neither is it CE certified.
http://www.carbonmonoxidedetectorplacement.com/uk/first-alert-co410/

Member

Thanks for checking. I’m happy to take a photo of what is on the back of the alarm – which has both a CE mark and a Kitemark – and send it to Which? It looks like the one in your photo but has the model number CO410 below CARBON MONOXIDE ALARM.

Member

What standard number does it quote by the kitemark? I’ve looked up an even earlier standard – 2001 – and the labelling requirements are still the same. This seems to be a US product, UL certified, and the instructions I’ve seen refer to a label on which you write the date and stick it in a position presumably marked on the alarm.

Member

As I said before, it is marked BS EN 50291-1:2010. There is no mention of UL certification, just a Kitemark and CE mark. There is a Gloucester address on it.

Member

As it still seems to be on sale I’d ask Which? to look into the certification.

Member

I’ve not had a lot of success in getting Which? to act on information I have sent, Malcolm.

Here are photos of the alarm (in test mode):

It’s disappointing that within a few years in a clean atmosphere the plastic has yellowed.

Member

Good photos. I’ve looked at the UK Instruction leaflet and it confirms the Kitemark and license number. It makes no mention of any label to write the installation date on; the US version did.

Which? should help. You could ask George to pass the request to Which?’s BSI committee member, or you could email the BSI Committee yourself via the contact here https://standardsdevelopment.bsigroup.com/committees/50002209. The committee is FSH/12/2.

Member

I took these photos to send to BSI, as a member of the public, expressing my concern that important information about replacement and the warning label were concealed when the unit was mounted on the wall. I did say that I understand that there is a requirement for information to be visible.

When I express my concern to an organisation I generally explore how an ordinary member of the public with no special knowledge is treated.

Member

It’s now a week since I sent these photos to BSI and I have not even had an acknowledgement of my email.

Member

Installing a CO alarm is easy, but a lot of people are faced with boiler flues running through a void space that are not up to recently introduced standards. We are faced with building work to install inspection hatches at 1.5 metre intervals.
An (expensive) alternative seems to be the fitting of a CO detector within the void space, connected to an automatic gas shut-off valve. Finding information on this is very difficult, can you help?

Member

I think you need advice and quotations from Gas Safe registered engineers, Phil. If this is rental property it seems that you have to take action, either installing inspection hatches, a monitoring system or repositioning the boiler. https://www.gassaferegister.co.uk/help-and-advice/gas-safety-in-the-home/get-your-appliances-checked/flues-in-voids/flues-in-voids-faqs/

Member

Thanks for that, wave, the link seems to be the authoritative (and up-to-date) source on the subject. So, I’m surprised that it expresses the view I believed last year – i.e. I (a private owner-occupier) can refuse to allow the gas to be turned off. The engineer doing my 2018 annual inspection/service was quite clear – that the gas supplier could now switch off the gas without ny permission, if the installation was “at risk” in this way!

In any case I would like to be safe and the auto-shut off CO detector would be my preferred way to go.

Member

We get our boiler serviced once a year, and our CO alarm sits on a shelf, but I keep forgetting to check the expiry date. Thanks for the reminder!

Member
Keith Reeve says:
2 October 2018

I recently called out British Gas gas to repair my central heating as I have a HomeCare 2 policy with them (but they are not my gas supplier). Once they’d fixed the heating, whilst doing their checks, they found I had a gas leak outside, which was on the supply side of the meter.
When the emergency gas people, Cadent, arrived they asked me which supplier I was with. When I asked why, I was surprised to learn that not all gas suppliers are with the same emergency organisation, which I believe used to be the case.
Cadent thought I was still with Tonik, who apparently use a different emergency supplier, but as I’m now with OneSelect they do use Cadent. Happily, once this was confirmed by Cadent, the meter was then quickly changed and all is well.
However, this to me is alarming. If you have a gas leak and are not aware who your supplier is, surely there should be one emergency gas organisation? if you have a fire or medical emergency you dial 999, and without a single point there is a risk to safety, similar to when there used to be separate fire services provided by insurance companies in centuries past, and if you weren’t with Company A they’d let your premises burn down.

Member

Which? News today:
”We’ve uncovered even more unsafe carbon monoxide alarms…… The X-Sense CO03D and the Aico Ei208 carbon monoxide alarms have both been made Don’t Buys.
………
Aico told us that it’s concerned, and that it takes all matters of alarm quality and reliability very seriously. It said that all of its alarms are independently tested, it hasn’t had a problem with these alarms since they were launched in 2010 and that it’s confident its alarms meet the carbon monoxide alarms standard.

Read more: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2018/10/weve-uncovered-even-more-unsafe-carbon-monoxide-alarms/ – Which?

Aico’s data sheet shows a BSI Kitemark to BS EN 50291-1:2010. Their instruction sheet says it “meets BS EN 50291-1:2010
https://www.aico.co.uk/product/ei208w-battery-co-alarm/
However, a search on Kitemarked CO alarms brings up no results for AICO. So perhaps the certificate has lapsed, does not exist or there is some misunderstanding?

It would be useful to check whether products tested that claim compliance have actually earned the BSI’s Kitemark and certification (or that of another EU state’s standards test house), and that it is still current. This can be done here for BSI:
https://www.bsigroup.com/en-GB/Product-Directory/

Member
Member

Well done wavechange. Didn’t appear when I looked. Perhaps should have used Ei not Aico. I’d suggest Which? discuss their findings with the Fire Dtector committee at BSI – FSH/12 I think – of which they are a member. I