As Gas Safety Week takes place
(16–22 September), research by AA Home Emergency Response reveals that fewer than half of households (42%) have a carbon monoxide alarm in their home that they check each year.1
In the UK around 50 people die from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning every year, and 200 people are left seriously ill.2
Carbon monoxide gas is known as 'the silent killer' because it has no odour or taste and can kill quickly. In many cases it is produced by gas appliances in poor condition that have not been serviced.3
The AA's Home Assist engineers regularly come across gas appliances that are badly maintained or in a dangerous state. Here are genuine reports from our engineers.
The only effective way to tell if lethal gas is present is by having a carbon monoxide alarm or alarms in your home.
Ryan Murphy, AA Home Assist Engineer of the Year
Ryan Murphy, AA Home Assist Engineer of the Year, says: "When you see what a bad state some members' boilers are in, it's a wonder they've lasted so long without something going seriously wrong.
"Having temperamental heating and hot water can be really inconvenient, but a carbon monoxide leak can kill.
"If you smell gas you should call the emergency gas number immediately and open all of your windows and doors.4
"Gas has an odour which is easily identifiable but carbon monoxide doesn't. The only effective way to tell if lethal gas is present is by having a carbon monoxide alarm or alarms in your home. They aren't expensive and are available from most hardware stores. If you don't have one, you might not know you have a leak until you start to become unwell. Flu-like symptoms are the first sign.
"An annual boiler service will make sure your boiler is working safely. In addition, a regular check or replacement of your carbon monoxide alarm is essential."
Carbon monoxide alarms should comply with BS EN 50291, and also show the British Standards Kitemark or another European approval mark.
If you've got a gas boiler, it's very important to get it serviced regularly in order to minimise the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Central Heating Response Plus provides cover for central heating emergencies and includes a boiler service too.
Cover for your boiler and central heating
1 Research carried out by ICM among 2,029 adults, 7–9 September 2012.
3 Gas Safety Trust Carbon Monoxide Incident Report 2012, Figure 25;
4 Emergency gas number – call 0800 111 999.
16 September 2013