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First of all, I'd like to talk about what carbon monoxide is and why it's so important to have a device like this that detects it.
Carbon monoxide is a product of incomplete combustion of natural or petroleum gas, and can be produced by heaters, cooking equipment, car exhuasts, and gasoline-powered tools.
As a scentless colourless gas, once inhaled, carbon monoxide binds to the haemoglobin of the blood cell, reducing the amount of oxygen in the bloodstream which can eventually lead to death. Basically - you drown in it. Other symptoms are headaches, dizziness, memory loss, seizures, and birth defects in the foetus if a pregnant woman is effected. According to the BBC Health website: "People who suffer mild poisoning invariably make a full recovery. Between ten and 50 per cent of those with severe poisoning may suffer long-term problems." Unfortunately, despite this prognosis, 50 people a year die of carbon monoxide poisoning in their own homes every year in the UK alone.
To prevent tragedies like that from happening, it's important to make sure all your central heating/gas fires/chimneys and flues are checked regularly and never ever run a car/motorbike/lawnmower inside a confined space like a garage. As well as that, another precaution is to use a carbon monoxide detector like this one from Kidde.
Last year it was during a visit from the British Gas man when he suggested we invest in such a detector. Before, we had a small card with a powdery circle in the middle that was supposed to go black if there was carbon monoxide in the air - I still remember it from my childhood quite vividly, but I don't think anyone paid attention to it really. The gas man had a few detector samples with him but they looked pretty basic and were quite expensive, so we went online instead.
Founded in 1917, Kidde is a European company specialising in carbon monoxide and fire safety equipment for the home. Kidde's website ensures us that all their products "have been tested and approved by 3rd party agencies to the latest European Standards".
Unlike a classic circular fire alarm, the Kidde 900-0230 BSI Co Alarm is a 5 inch long x 4 inch tall x 3 inch wide pill-shaped device, encased in white plastic with a needlessly stylised design. In grey is the company name, and the logo that ensures that this product is up to European Standards. In the middle is a digital display, to the right is a dial which you can use to test/reset and adjust the back-light of the digital display. On the left of the digital display is a series of slits enhanced with plastic ridges, where the alarm will ring from during testing/on detecting carbon monoxide. The entire device's weight is 280g (with batteries), and has a 4.5 voltage.
Personally, I'm not a big fan of the design, but I didn't buy this product to enhance the decor of my living room - what it concerns me more is whether it works or not. I also don't really see the point of it being compact - though I admit it's less noticeable and blends into the room well.
Unlike other types of carbon monoxide detector, the Kidde 900-0230 BSI runs on batteries, not on the mains. This may seem like throwing money away to buy new batteries every few months, but I've found the batteries last upwards of 18 months. Apparently most carbon monoxide poisonings occur during power-cuts, so I am very happy to spend extra money on batteries to ensure that this device overcomes that statistic. Plus, the set comes with AA batteries included.
After fitting the batteries, the detector works by analysing the carbon monoxide levels in the air per million (ppm). This sounds almost ridiculous, but according to this chart, there is reason why the electrochemical analysis must be so precise:
0-9 ppm / an hour of exposure - no health risk; normal CO levels in air
10-29 ppm / an hour of exposure : problems over long-term exposure; chronic CO problems such as headaches, nausea- not the most dangerous level
30-35 ppm / an hour of exposure : flu-like symptoms begin to develop, especially among the young and the elderly
36-99 ppm / an hour of exposure : flu-like symptoms among all; nausea, headaches, fatigue or drowsiness, vomiting; most CO detectors sound off here
100 ppm / an hour of exposure : severe symptoms; confusion, intense headaches; ultimately brain damage, coma, and/or death, especially at 300 to 400 ppm+
(Taken from here http://library.thinkquest.org/10121/textonly/exposure.htm)
If you think you have carbon monoxide poisoning - go outside and call 999 right away. Open all the windows and doors. Going to the hospital immediately is especially important for the young, the elderly or pregnant ladies who may feel the effects of carbon monoxide more strongly.
A green LED light flashes on the detector to show that it's working (unless the levels become hazardous), and the detector takes a new reading every 15 seconds. The digital display should show the number 0 most times. It also has a "memory" of the peak detections that can be accessed via the dial. I find the digital display is easy to read, but I did have to adjust the backlight for my eyes.
If the carbon monoxide ppm exceed a certain level (presumably 36 - 39 ppm), a loud 85 decibel alarm rings and the LED flashes red continuously. I have tested the alarm before (which is recommended every few months) and it is the most hideous sound - it makes me want to tear off my ears - there is no way anyone could sleep through that or indeed ignore it, which is commendable. To test, simply turn the dial to the relevant position and cover your ears.
The alarm also goes off if the device's batteries are low and need to be replaced, which may frighten a few people, but it's better than no warning at all in my opinion.
This carbon monoxide detector can be fitted to a wall, but it sits on the top of a cabinet in our house, and so far we have been lucky to not use it very much! We usually test it once a month or once every two months, along with the fire alarms.
Presumably, the detector has a range of a single room, so if you have multiple fireplaces or a boiler in your kitchen and a gas fire elsewhere, I'd recommend buying one for each room.
Let's hope you can afford to buy one or two - Amazon is currently selling these for £16.89 + £4.60 P&P. I think we paid around £14.00 + P&P from Amazon. You may find it cheaper elsewhere.
While the Kidde carbon monoxide detector may not be the cheapest in the world, I do feel that it has all the features that it could be called the safest. In my opinion, no home is safe from the silent killer of carbon monoxide without one.
Thank-you for reading. :)