The mistake that is putting third of UK homes at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning

Don't put it off any longer

When was the last time you checked your carbon monoxide alarm's batteries? If you don't have one then you need to hear this carbon monoxide alarm warning.

Related: How to fix or replace a boiler and look after it over the winter months

According to a recent study by Uswitch (opens in new tab), a third of households don't have a carbon monoxide alarm. Getting one sorted isn't always at the top of our to-do lists, but here's why you shouldn't put it off.

Those of us without one are at risk from the odourless ‘silent killer’ emitted from faulty boilers, central heating systems, water heaters, gas fires and cookers. The gas is tasteless, odourless and invisible, meaning we may not know there is a leak unless we have an alarm.

Carbon monoxide alarm warning

grey living room with log burner in facebrick fireplace

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

What with lockdown and snowy weather, it's all the more important to ensure you have a detector, and that it's working. 'With households turning their heating up during the cold weather, and a majority working from home, boilers are under more pressure than ever and boilers which have not been serviced for a long time could be at risk of causing serious problems,' says Sarah Broomfield, energy expert at Uswitch.com.

Related: Your boiler could be extinct by 2025 – and here’s what the experts say

'The pandemic has held up a lot of services, but we are urging people to get their boilers checked by a qualified engineer regularly. In the meantime, buying a carbon monoxide alarm and regularly checking that the batteries work is a vital way to protect yourself and your family,' Sarah adds.

More than a quarter of us haven’t had our boilers serviced in over a year, with the pandemic delaying checks for a third of boiler owners.

old books stacked on wooden stool in front of rusty radiator

(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Eltes)

What are some of the signs of a carbon monoxide leak?

A tension headache is the most common symptom of mild carbon monoxide poisoning. Other effects can include dizziness, feeling and being sick, tiredness and confusion, stomach pain and shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. Long-term exposure can cause neurological symptoms, and death in severe cases.

What do you do if your carbon monoxide alarm goes off?

Of those who have a carbon monoxide detector, a quarter of households say they would not know what to do if the alarm went off. If your alarm does go off take action by turning off appliances, opening doors and windows. Leave the property and call a qualified technician.

Related: This is the perfect temperature to set your heating at and keep everyone happy

How often should you have your boiler serviced?

One of the most common sources of carbon monoxide in homes is the boiler. It is recommended that boilers are serviced annually to ensure they are operating safely and at peak efficiency.

However, more than a quarter of households have not had their boiler serviced in over a year. This has been made worse by the pandemic, as almost a third of those with a boiler said they have waited longer than normal.

white and green kitchen with boiler installed in pantry

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

Two-fifths of those who have waited because of Covid-19 said they had done so because they were worried about the risk of infection from having an engineer in their property, and nearly a quarter said they had put it off as their household finances are tighter because of the pandemic.

Overall, a fifth of people say they only get their boiler serviced every two years or more, and 7% only get a service when there is a problem.

Related: Could your boiler be putting your families lives at risk?

Uswitch.com and London Fire Brigade (opens in new tab) are calling on people to ensure that their boiler is regularly serviced and to buy a carbon monoxide alarm.

Don't put yourself at risk.

Millie Hurst
Millie Hurst

Millie Hurst is Senior Content Editor at Ideal Home. She first joined the team at the start of 2021. Previously, she worked in women’s lifestyle and homes news, writing about everything from budget kitchen makeovers and gardening tips to homeware dupes and cleaning hacks. Millie can often be found looking up trending terms, spotting news stories our readers need to know about and finding ways to decorate her rented flat.