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New Building Regulations fuels the demand for CO alarms

New Building Regulations coming into force later this year will add to the growing demand for carbon monoxide alarms in homes. Gerald Jones, Kidde Business Manager Professional Channels, explains the types of alarms available and what to look out for.

A newly published 2010 Edition of the Building Regulations Part J Approved Document (AD J) takes effect on 1st October in England and Wales. It will require – for the first time in the UK - a carbon monoxide alarm in the same room as a new or replacement fixed solid fuel heating appliance. AD J states that this should be fitted to the ceiling at least 300mm from any wall or high up the wall above doors and windows but no less than 150mm off the ceiling. The CO alarm should also be within a 1m – 3m range horizontally from the appliance.

Modern CO alarms come in all shapes and sizes, and can be divided into three types - hard-wired mains, battery only and mains plug-in. Each has its own benefits for particular situations and all have potential to be sold through electrical wholesalers.

Under AD J, CO alarms can be either hard-wired mains or battery powered. Plug-in alarms are not suitable for Part J compliance but are still popular for personal transferable protection, for example in short-term let accommodation. Battery-only CO alarms are simpler to retrofit in existing homes than hard-wired units but they are not the answer for new homes.

A hard –wired preference

With new buildings and major refurbishments or upgrades, hard-wired mains powered CO alarms are the best solution - ideally with sealed-in, rechargeable lithium cells for back-up to prevent tenant access and battery removal. Hard-wired CO alarms must, of course, be installed by qualified electrical contractors in accordance with Part P. Hard-wired smoke and heat alarms with backup are already a requirement of Part B for fire safety in new-builds and some manufacturers offer systems to interlink with their compatible hard-wired CO alarms. For example, with Kidde Fyrnetics’

Smart Interconnect facility, when a smoke or heat alarm is triggered by a fire, all the interconnected alarms - including CO alarms - activate to alert occupants of danger. When a CO alarm is triggered by carbon monoxide, all the interconnected CO alarms activate. It is important to have different, distinct alarm sounder patterns for carbon monoxide and fire – preferably supported by different digital display messages.

Wider coverage

There is a convincing case for CO alarms in all new homes, irrespective of fuel types, as carbon monoxide can result from a wide range of – often unpredictable – circumstances. For example, following a death in one of its homes, and the prosecution of the CORGI registered gas installer, house-builder Barratt now fits CO alarms as a matter of course.

Responsible housing providers are already taking the initiative. In one case,

Gentoo is incorporating Kidde Fyrnetics’ smoke, heat and carbon monoxide alarms using the Smart Interconnect facility as an integral part of its ground-breaking, airtight ‘Passivhaus’ development - despite the absence of any fuel-burning appliances in the homes. Action is also being demanded for existing homes, with rented properties a particular concern. The ‘Carbon Monoxide – Be Alarmed!’ campaign is pressing for measures so that, in order to receive a mandatory gas safety certificate, landlords must provide tenants with a CO alarm.

There is no question that CO alarms save lives – but only if they work effectively. They must comply with European Standard BS EN 50291:2001 and legitimately carry an appropriate European approval mark, such as the BSi Kitemark/LPCB mark. It is essential that alarms use electrochemical technology with a stable performance over time, proven by independent and accredited laboratories. Additionally, safer and greener deionised water is preferred over acid-based electrolytes that suffer variations in electrolytic concentrations. Manufacturers that produce their own CO cells – the key component – rather than buying them in, can apply tighter quality controls. For example,

every Kidde sensor is tested under CO itself in the factory and all products must pass through several key quality testing ‘gates’ before becoming available for sale.

The latest information on domestic fire and CO safety is available via:

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