Expert advise to Agents and Landlords over carbon monoxide alarms

Letting Agent Today has been contacted by the Council of Gas Detection and Environmental Monitoring – the trade association for gas detection experts – seeking to put across a full explanation and context of how carbon monoxide issues may impact letting agents and landlords.

Given CoGDEM’s credentials, LAT is very happy to give space for its expert assessment of the reliability of domestic carbon monoxide (CO) alarms, especially over the Christmas period when occupation of some rented properties may be greater than usual.

CoGDEM says, at the outset, that the assertion that some make concerning sensors being disabled if exposed to sub-zero temperatures is untrue.

“To comply with [British Standard] EN 50291, an independent laboratory such as the British Standards Institution will perform a test of a CO alarm’s full operation at -10°C after storage at -20°C. Tests are also done at +40°C, so the alarm will have been designed and manufactured with very sophisticated atmospheric sensors and electronics to be able to achieve this large temperature range.  The EN 50291 standard also requires every alarm to test its own CO sensor automatically and identify any faults” says a statement from the council. 

CoGDEM is also keen to reassure landlords and letting agents that an October 2016 report by consumer magazine Which? showed that in independent tests, the EN 50291-compliant CO alarms from reputable manufacturers were 100 per cent reliable, whereas it was the less reliable alarms available on the internet that were not.  

“A few years ago, the Health & Safety Executive conducted tests of over 100 EN 50291-compliant alarms that were up to six years old, retrieved from homes at random by Gas Safe Register’s inspectors. When exposed to accurate concentrations of CO gas, the HSE recorded a 99 per cent pass rate – one unit had an intermittent connection fault after being shipped in a jiffy bag to the HSE laboratory” says CoGDEM. 

The National Landlords Association says it advises responsible landlords and letting agents to only install CO alarms that truly comply with the tough standard EN 50291 and that it is important to follow the alarm manufacturer’s instructions on installation and testing. 

“However, CO alarms should only be regarded as a second line of defence against CO. If all fuel-burning appliances are installed, serviced, ventilated and used correctly, there should never be a CO incident in the first place” the NLA adds. 

CO alarms from reputable manufacturers sold by reputable suppliers will comply with EN 50291 and will therefore give reliable service for their entire operating life, including over the important Christmas period when everybody expects to be safe to relax in their homes and when visiting family or friends.