Carbon Monoxide (also known as CO) is a colourless, odourless poisonous gas and is a common yet preventable cause of death from poisoning worldwide. Approximately half of the deaths from unintentional CO poisoning result from the inhalation of smoke from fires. Other significant causes are vehicle exhausts and deaths in industrial/commercial settings. On average between 1 and 2 people die each year in Ireland from unintentional CO poisoning in the home in incidents related to domestic heating or other fossil fuel installations in the home (i.e. excluding the inhalation of smoke from fires).
The incomplete combustion of organic fossil fuels such as oil, gas or coal is a common environmental source of CO and is responsible for many cases of non-fatal unintentional CO poisoning.
In normal conditions the combustion process (the addition of oxygen) will result in carbon in the fossil fuel, combining with oxygen, in the air, to produce Carbon Dioxide (CO2), the same substance we exhale when we breathe.
However, if there is a lack of air for the combustion process or the heating appliance is faulty, Carbon Monoxide can be produced.
When CO is inhaled into the body it combines with the blood, preventing it from absorbing oxygen. If a person is exposed to CO over a period, it can cause illness and even death.
Since we are most vulnerable to the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning while we sleep, it is important to place alarms near your family’s bedrooms. If you only have one CO alarm, place it as close to everyone’s sleeping area as possible.
Ideally, you should have carbon monoxide detectors placed throughout your home, as you do smoke alarms. You should place a CO detector in each major area of your home: in the kitchen, in your living/dining room, in your bedrooms, and the office. If you have children or elderly family members living with you, provide extra protection near their rooms. If you live in a multi-story home, be sure to place at least one carbon monoxide detector on each level.
If you have a gas clothes dryer, put an alarm in the laundry room. Place one in the garage, if you park your cars there. Wherever you have a solid fuel-fired appliance – anything that could produce carbon monoxide – you should also have a CO alarm.
Causes of CO Poisoning
You can be in danger of Carbon Monoxide poisoning at home if dangerous amounts of Carbon Monoxide accumulate in the home. This can happen as a result of any or a combination of the following:
Symptoms of CO Poisoning
Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning can be similar to those caused by other illnesses such as a cold or flu. They include
If anyone in your house has any of the symptoms outlined above, they should get fresh air immediately, then go to your doctor and ask him/her to check for Carbon Monoxide poisoning.
Stop using the appliance immediately and do not use it again until it has been checked by a registered gas installer.
The amount of CO which the blood absorbs depends chiefly on two things: how much CO is in the air and the time of the exposure. Adverse effects of CO on humans are reduced by periods of breathing fresh air. The degree of recovery depends on the number and length of those periods. The general state of health and degree of physical activity of a person exposed to CO are other factors involved in the effects of Carbon Monoxide on the body.
Prevention is always better than cure: by having your gas boiler and gas appliances correctly installed in good ventilated areas, properly repaired and getting a gas boiler service annually by Registered Gas Installers (RGI) the risks of being exposed to CO poisoning are reduced.
A combi boiler or ( combination boiler ) is an ingenious space-saving idea and an increasingly popular choice in homes. Combi boilers now account for well over half of all the new domestic boilers installed every year.
A combi boiler is both a high-efficiency water heater and a central heating boiler, combined within one compact unit. Therefore, no separate hot water cylinder is required, offering space saving within the property.
Combination boilers are capable of providing instant hot water and heating while saving space within a home.
The conventional arrangement in Ireland is to have a normal boiler which heats the radiators via a sealed water circuit. By “sealed” it is meant that the water is contained within the system, going around in a loop between the radiators and the boiler.
To heat the “domestic hot water” (i.e. the water that comes out of the hot taps) the storage cylinder in the hot press has a coil in it through which the “radiator water” flows.
The disadvantage of this arrangement is that if the cylinder does not have hot water in it you have to wait some time for the coil to heat it up.
A ‘combi’ boiler is a boiler which combines both a conventional boiler for radiators and an independent water heater, together in the one unit. This dispenses with the hot water cylinder in the hot press. But better still, it means that hot water is always available instantly and for as long as you need it.
Control valves inside combi boilers operate in different directions, either letting the water flow through the central heating system or diverting it to a hot water tap, as required, but never both at the same time.
Combi boilers require sufficient mains water pressure in order to deliver a good water flow rate; low mains water pressure means hot water will merely trickle. If your mains water pressure is low or you have more than one bathroom, a conventional system boiler might be a better option for you.
It is also important to ensure that the heat output of the boiler is correct for your needs. Combi boilers have two heat outputs: one for Domestic Hot Water and the other for Central Heating. More effort and hence more heat is required to produce hot water than to heat a home through the radiators, so it is usually the hot water output that determines your choice of combi boiler.
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