Householders’ Demand for Quality CO Alarms Must Be Met

Carbon Monoxide (CO) safety has crept up the political agenda in recent months with an inquiry by the All-Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group (APPCOG) and a private member’s bill in the House of Commons.

While it is well accepted that the private bill has no chance of success in its aim of making CO alarms compulsory in Honeywell CO Alarmnewly-built homes and in rental properties, APPCOG has produced a new report on CO safety. Among its recommendations, it strongly emphasises how CO alarms must be more widely installed.
The report, “From Awareness to Action”, which was published in January, said CO alarms were “essential” and added: “The correct installation and positioning of CO alarms is important to ensure they work at full functionality”.

From a commercial point of view, plumbers and gas engineers have a substantial opportunity here to boost public safety – and their own bottom lines at the same time – provided they have a high quality product to hand.

A survey by YouGov on behalf of Honeywell has found that more than three quarters (76 per cent) of 2,885 private renters and homeowners in England and Wales, who acknowledge knowing what CO is, would have an alarm fitted by plumbers or gas engineers who offered to do it at an affordable price while servicing appliances in their homes. And more than three-quarters – 77 per cent – said they would follow the advice of a plumber or gas engineer about which alarm to fit.

This presents a big open door for professionals, since the survey also revealed that only 47 per cent of private households have a CO alarm, leaving many potential customers. This figure may be higher than some other installation estimates, but it should be remembered that it does not include public sector or social housing, where uptake rates are substantially lower.

However, any engineer or plumber wanting to make the most of this opportunity to fit CO alarms must make sure they are offering products bearing Kitemarks made by a manufacturer with a name recognised for
quality. Nearly nine out of ten (88 per cent) respondents in the YouGov survey said a British or European Kitemark, or evidence of EN50291 certification would be an important factor when deciding which alarm to buy.

Engineers or plumbers offering one of the many cheap, imported CO alarms that meet only the minimum safety and operational requirements, are likely to find a sudden lack of enthusiasm for their services from a public that knows a Kitemark when it sees it.

But if they have the right kind of alarm, they should find a receptive audience. In the YouGov survey for example, the vastCarbon Monoxide Alarm 2 majority of householders fully recognised the dangers of CO, with nearly nine out of ten (88%) agreeing that they would not be able to recognise a leak of the deadly gas in their home from its odour. Yet, despite knowing this, less than half had alarms fitted.

Furthermore, only 49 per cent of respondents said they had fuel-powered appliances in their homes serviced regularly, while less than a quarter (23 per cent) admitted they had neither a CO alarm nor regular servicing.

On this evidence, it seems likely that despite knowing what CO is, many householders have simply not got round to fitting an alarm, perhaps because of complacency about their appliances or through a patchy understanding of the sources of the gas.

In the survey, for instance, while three-quarters of respondents knew that central heating boilers, gas stoves and portable gas heaters could be the source of CO, just 56 per cent said portable LPG fires could generate the gas.

The APPCOG report describes engineers as “trusted messengers” who can assist with the installation of alarms. The Honeywell survey has shed much more light on this issue and has identified how plumbers, heating engineers and installers can become agents for the increase in alarm use that is required for greater public protection.

If they point to the dangers of complacency and have the right kind of Kitemark-bearing alarms to hand, engineers are likely to find the public very willing to follow their advice immediately.

By Tim Jack, Business Development Leader for Carbon Monoxide Alarms, Honeywell

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