Real time facts mean real time action

Martyn Walley, National Technical Manager at Aico Ltd., looks at the rise of the carbon monoxide alarm and how the latest technology developments provide your customers with added value.

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a silent killer. You can’t see it, smell it or taste it. It is a by-product of burning any combustible material such as coal, oil, wood and gas. As you may already be aware these can be emitted from a number of appliances such as cookers, boilers, wood burners and open fires.

CO leaks can come from faulty appliances or from one that has been incorrectly installed, but it could also be a result of poor ventilation and blockages or cracks in chimneys or flues. The only way to detect CO is with a working CO alarm.

In England, under Building Regulations, Approved Document J ‘Combustion appliances and fuel storage systems’ CO alarms are mandatory for where a new or replacement fixed solid fuel appliance is installed within a dwelling. Sadly, this does not apply to gas appliances, which are more prevalent in social housing properties. It’s disappointing and organisations such as the Council of Gas Detection and Environmental Monitoring (CoGDEM) are working hard to improve this.

Regulations are more progressive in Scotland and Northern Ireland, where CO alarms are required in all homes which have a new or replacement combustion heating appliance installed; in Scotland that also covers gas cookers.

Law change

A change in English law for private landlords has also been announced recently. The new legislation, which comes into effect in October, requires landlords in the private sector to install working Smoke and CO Alarms throughout their properties, with penalties of up to £5,000 for those that breach a remedial notice. It will be enforced by local authorities.

Whilst the law in England and Wales does not require landlords to fit CO alarms in properties that have gas appliances, more and more landlords in the public sector are acknowledging their responsibilities under ‘Duty of Care’ and protecting themselves and their tenants by installing CO alarms.

CO alarms have been available in the UK for decades but recent key developments – notably data availability – enable your customers to keep one step ahead of the competition and provide their landlord customers with added value.

4452 AudioLINK

The new generation of CO alarms, such as Aico’s patent pending AudioLINK, have the ability to supply a great deal more information than ever before. This includes detection levels of CO, including background CO, with details of when it occurred; alarm battery life; alarm sensor status; number of times tested and removed from its installed location. Being able to detect background CO is particularly important as long periods of exposure to low levels of CO, especially for vulnerable people, can cause long term health issues.

Having the ability to check if tenants have been testing their alarms (the recommendation is test weekly) and to see if they have removed the alarm at any point is also very useful.

Extracting data

The key message here though is the ability to quickly and easily extract the data from the CO alarm, otherwise its value is compromised, more so if the electrician has to remove the alarm from its location and analyse the data using a special (costly) machine, or even worst – send to the manufacturer for analysis – this becomes a cumbersome, expensive exercise.

Having the ability to extract the alarm data there and then, in real time, is far more effective. Aico’s AudioLINK, for example, enables data to be extracted in situ whilst on site via the Alarm’s sounder using an AudioLINK enabled CO Alarm, a tablet or smartphone and the free AudioLINK App. This data is converted into an Alarm Status Report, which is simple to review and store for the landlord’s record purposes.

With only one fifth of homes estimated to have a CO alarm in place and regulations for CO alarms in England and Wales lagging behind those in Scotland and Northern Ireland, we have a way to go until we catch up with the success enjoyed by smoke alarms (80% of homes in the UK have smoke alarms). However, with CO alarms becoming ever more sophisticated in their data provision and increased awareness of the dangers of CO in the home, progress is being made, especially in the social housing sector.

All Aico alarms are designed and built in Ireland specifically to meet the UK standards and regulations.