Dangers of Carbon Monoxide (CO) When Caravanning

Before venturing out on your next caravanning trip it is important to understand what Carbon Monoxide is and why it is dangerous. 

Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur in any enclosed space, including caravans. The simplest way to avoid this dangerous gas is to ensure that you have a carbon monoxide detector installed in your caravan. Exposure to high levels of CO can cause cardiac arrest and even death. 

The article below explains the effects of this highly dangerous gas, as well as the signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. 

We also cover how to protect yourself from the dangers of this substance, and some of the steps you should take to prevent Carbon Monoxide poisoning.

What is Carbon Monoxide?

Did you know that there is a big risk of carbon monoxide poisoning in a caravan? In fact, around 25 people die from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning in England each year! 

In February 2013, three people died at a caravan park in West Cornwall when a portable heater failed to function. One of the victims was found asleep in a chair. He did not respond to knocks on the door. The family had left the generator running overnight to run the van’s battery.

Because caravans are enclosed units, they are especially susceptible to this risk.

However, there are some ways to protect yourself and your family from this hazard.

Here are some tips to help you prepare for your trip. Keep reading to learn more about carbon monoxide and caravans.

If you have a caravan, there is a good chance that you have used the gas stove to heat the van – if you choose to do this then check the flames!

Once you’ve set up, check your caravan’s gas combustion by looking at the hob flame. A blue flame indicates a healthy combustion process. If you see a yellow flame, carbon monoxide leakage is potentially taking place. 

You should contact a gas safety professional to have the gas system inspected as soon as possible. Make sure to replace the CO detector every 5 years. 

It’s vital to have an efficient carbon monoxide detector – we can’t stress this enough. It’s the best way to protect yourself from this danger.

These detectors are now a standard piece of equipment in most new caravans and motorhomes, but you still need to change the batteries of the detectors at least once a year.

Carbon monoxide can lead to serious health problems and can kill you. Therefore, it’s critical to have one in your caravan.

Is Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Possible In a Caravan?

As I mentioned above, Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur in any enclosed space, including caravans and motorhomes.

Exposure to 100ppm of carbon monoxide can lead to headaches, fatigue and other health problems.

Although the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are often similar to those of food poisoning, the danger of exposure increases with time. It is therefore recommended to have your caravan checked by a qualified engineer.

Moreover, carbon monoxide poisoning is even more fatal when the victim is asleep and the victim stops breathing. The symptoms are similar to the flu. If you are not aware of these symptoms, it’s important to seek medical assistance immediately.

Why is Carbon Monoxide Dangerous?

Although this gas is colourless and odourless, it is extremely harmful and can be extremely fatal if not removed. A recent study by the Gas Safety Trust showed that only 13% of people can identify the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. 

You should also check your detector regularly and replace it if it malfunctions. The CO detector should be placed in a high-traffic area of your caravan. You should also be aware of its short lifespan.

The risk of exposure to carbon monoxide is significantly increased in caravans and motorhomes due to poor ventilation and improper installation of appliances. Although the symptoms are similar to those of flu or food poisoning, they can develop over a long period. 

Exposure to carbon monoxide can lead to brain damage or even death. You can visit the NHS website for more information about the dangers of carbon monoxide. They have a leaflet and poster that you can download.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Touring in a caravan provides lots of exciting adventures, but there are some risks associated with it, such as carbon monoxide poisoning. This odourless gas can be deadly if the concentration is high enough. 

Although it can also be present outdoors, its effects are greatest when it is confined in an enclosed space. 

The following symptoms may occur when the level of carbon monoxide is high:

The symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to those of the common cold or flu. They include dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, and accelerated heartbeat. 

This gas reduces the capacity of the bloodstream to hold oxygen. When the blood level drops below a certain level, the body shuts down and suffers symptoms such as fainting. 

This is a serious situation, as it can lead to death in unborn children, infants, and people with circulatory problems are especially susceptible.

If you have already become ill from exposure, you may experience drowsiness, confusion, and even loss of consciousness. Depending on the amount of exposure, these symptoms may be mild to severe. 

If you suspect you or a loved one is suffering from CO poisoning, seek medical help immediately.

Is A Gas Safety Certificate Required For A Caravan?

Yes, it is essential for the safety of you, your family and your caravan!

Before the habitation check/service, make sure that your vehicle is on level ground (if the service engineer is coming out to you), it’s worth checking that all appliances operate and that you have a two-stage regulator and opp installed. 

You should have a valid gas certificate if you are going to sell your caravan. You might need it when you transfer the registration from the previous owner to the new owner. 

You May Be Interested In: Caravan Servicing: Your Questions Answered

If you’re considering buying a caravan, it’s important to check all service/habitation certificates are in place and up to date.

How to use the fire alarm and carbon monoxide alarm 🚨 - found in modern caravans

Where to Put the CO Monitor in a Caravan

When installing a CO alarm, the first thing to consider is the location of the alarm. It should be close to windows, exterior doors, and heating vents. It should also be located near the sleeping area. 

Install the detector near the bedroom or in the living area. Make sure that you have ventilation throughout the caravan. 

After you have installed your CO alarm, check it every week, or each time you use the van to ensure that it’s working. To test it, press the test button on its face. You should replace it every five years. 

The best position for your CO alarm is at around chest height near a corner of the wall. However, make sure to check the alarm booklet before installing it in your caravan.

These devices are inexpensive and are quite similar to smoke detectors. Always Make sure to choose one with British Standard certification. 

Those that are kitemarked to BS EN50291-2 are suitable for use in a caravan. It’s important to make sure it is placed close to the appliances it monitors. Ensure it is located at least four inches off the floor.

Every time you stay in your van always remember to check the carbon monoxide detector. An alarm will sound whenever the unit detects a gas. 

A good model is the FireAngel CO-9D. This model comes with a multi-function digital screen and a thermometer. 

Fireangel CO-9D Digital Sealed for Life Carbon Monoxide Alarm
  • Automatic self diagnostic check
  • Loud 85 dB alarm at 1 m
  • Large multi-function digital screen and room thermometer
  • Temperature facility designed to provide a room temperature indication only (nominally +/– 2 Degree Celsius)

It sounds loudly at 85dB when it detects CO within one meter. It has a large test button and a silent mode button for when you need to turn it off. The Fireangel model is recommended by 90% of UK rescue teams.

Where Not To Place A CO Detector In Your Caravan

Just as important is where ‘not’ to place a CO detector. If you install a CO detector in the wrong place, you may end up with a false alarm. In addition, you may not get an alarm at all when a gas leak is present.

The Department of Health recommends placing it outside of the sleeping area, but be careful to install the detector at a safe height.

Remove any furniture, curtains, inside closets, or other obstructions that would prevent carbon monoxide gas from reaching the alarm’s sensor.

The distance between windows, heaters, exterior doors, and vents must be less than 12 inches (30 cm). So keep the alarm away from major draughty spots.

We know this article makes for grim reading – but all you need to do for peace of mind AND protection is get yourself a CO detector, check it regularly and make sure you get your habitation checks done!  

Before you go off on your touring trip, check your caravan for carbon monoxide as part of your overall routine!

We are seeing lots of people buying very old caravans to renovate – so it is especially important to get this done to protect you and your family.

Happy caravanning! 

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