Carbon Monoxide Issues

Posted on by David Burley

carbon monoxide

Here in Outdoorbits we seem to be encountering a spate of High carbon monoxide readings whilst doing Habitation Services recently, more alarmingly the response from owners when informed is that its never been picked up at prior Habitation checks.

Now the actual Habitation Service isn’t a mandatory item and as such has no legal requirement for a Gas Analyser to be used in fact the NCC Guidelines for a Habitation Service also do not require / detail the use of one to check Carbon monoxide readings, the nod to the safety aspect is that the colour of the flame from such items as the Fridge burner should be checked for the presence of yellow colour indicating an issue.

We have invested in a kane gas analyzerKane 455 Gas Analyzer alongside a wireless printer which allows us to monitor in great detail the combustion emissions from flues etc from your Boiler, Fridge etc. This also gives us a nice printout showing Parts Per Million (PPM) of CO gas present at the flue and which we can hand over to customers akin to the Emission results you now receive when taking a vehicle for an MOT.

 

This must be the way ahead for the motorhome and caravan industry with the dangers of High carbon monoxide readings being a potential death trap. In the last few months we have had 3-4 different vans all with high enough readings to need immediate action, the most recent had >1000 PPM for CO Levels coming from the Flue of the affected Fridge.

Fridges in motorhomes and caravans tend to be room sealed appliances and so the vented gases from the flue should not enter the van, however this particular customer had a window in close proximity to the fridge exterior top vent and so gases were entering the vehicle. Fridge room seals are also sometimes in a poor state and are not 100% air sealed and so do allow some gases into the living area.

 

corroded fridge burner assembly
Badly corroded burner assembly to the front of the picture

The work needed to rectify the issues on the vans we have encountered tends to be economical and speedy such as replacing burner/jet assemblies and cleaning the flues so 1hr labour and £50-75 parts as an example. Worst case scenario the fridge will need to be removed and serviced from within the van which might take slightly longer (mostly the work can be done with the fridge in situ but some motorhome/caravan manufacturers situate the fridges such that the flue is inaccessible without removing it from the van).

Carbon Monoxide (CO), is sometimes called the “Silent Killer” due  to its ability to take lives speedily and quietly with its victims never even knowing they were at risk (CO Is odourless and tasteless and so without special equipment cannot be measured / noted)

Simple Carbon Monoxide alarms can be purchased which detect any dangerous presence of CO and alerts you to the fact (Fire Angel Carbon Monoxide Alarm) or a twin pack of CO Indicator Spots is less than £5 (Carbon Monoxide Stick on Detector Spots) I have the former in my own van as they have an audible as well as visual alarm whereas the spots just change to a dark colour to indicate the presence of CO.

One easy to spot indication of something going wrong with the combustion in your flue is the presence of soot at the flue exit (Soot indicates incomplete combustion)


 

Carbon Monoxide Levels and Effect on Health

Level of CO Effect On Health
0 PPM Normal, fresh air.
9 PPM Maximum recommended indoor CO level.
10-24 PPM Possible health effects with long-term exposure.
25 PPM Max TWA Exposure for 8 hour work-day.
50 PPM Maximum permissible exposure in workplace
100 PPM Slight headache after 1-2 hours.
200 PPM Dizziness, naseau, fagitue, headache after 2-3 hours of exposure.
400 PPM Headache and nausea after 1-2 hours of exposure.Life threatening in 3 hours.
800 PPM Headache, nausea, and dizziness after 45 minutes; collapse and unconsciousness after 1 hour of exposure.Death within 2-3 hours.
1000 PPM Loss of consciousness after 1 hour of exposure.
1600 PPM Headache, nausea, and dizziness after 20 minutes of exposure.Death within 1-2 hours.
3200 PPM Headache, nausea, and dizziness after 5-10 minutes; collapse and unconsciousness after 30 minutes of exposure.Death within 1 hour.
6400 PPM Death within 30 minutes.
12,800 PPM Immediate physiological effects, unconsciousness.Death within 1-3 minutes of exposure.

 

If you suspect you may have exposure to CO then the NHS Website has a useful information page with Symptoms http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Carbon-monoxide-poisoning/Pages/Symptoms.aspx

Please share this with fellow motorhome / caravan owners and lets put pressure on this being a mandatory requirement for services.

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About David Burley

David lives & breathes motorhomes, an ex Fulltimer who has years of experience living in a motorhome and now drawing on his Royal Navy Technical engineering background for installation work.

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