Poisoning risk from poorly fitted stoves
If stoves are not fitted properly they can release carbon monoxide into homes, writes ALANNA GALLAGHER
Many of the wood, or other solid-fuel, burning stoves which have become a popular feature in about 300,000 Irish households have been poorly installed, putting people at risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.
According to Patrick Cowan, president of the Chimney Sweeps Association of Ireland (CSAI): “When you fit a stove in front of a fireplace you are changing the material use of the chimney; basically you’re blocking the chimney, which can be lethal because it can cause a chimney fire or carbon monoxide poisoning.”
Cowan says up to 95 per cent of the stoves he inspected last year had been incorrectly installed. “The danger of carbon monoxide intrusion or a chimney fire increases 10-fold if the stove is not properly fitted,” he says. Usually when people buy a stove they are given the option to have it fitted by trained staff, but buyers often try to avoid this additional cost by organising to have the stove fitted themselves. Cowan says the installation should be factored into the price instead of being an optional add-on, in order to ensure fitting by a certified chimney inspector.
Compliance can be expensive. A full inspection costs €300. If the survey finds that the chimney needs to be lined and the fireplace removed to better fit the stove, it can cost upwards of €3,000.
Any appliance that burns oil, gas or solid fuel can emit carbon monoxide. “By employing an installer who is a member of the Registered Gas Installers of Ireland (RGII) you ensure the appliance is fitted correctly,” says Elaine Hattie, a spokesperson for Bord Gáis Networks.
She cites the Department of Environment’s Regulatory Impact document in which it says the HSE’s analysis shows that there were 307 deaths in Ireland caused by carbon monoxide in the 11-year period from 2000 to 2010 inclusive. Seventy three of these cases were due to accidental poisoning following exposure to CO. This represents an average of six preventable carbon monoxide deaths annually .
A carbon monoxide alarm is essential. “Homes should have a minimum of two: one on the ceiling of the sittingroom, where the device is and where heat rising will first carry the CO gas, and a second at breathing level in the bedroom,” says Tom Mehan, technical sales manager with EI Electronics, producers of an Irish-made carbon monoxide alarm.
EI prices start from €29.95 per alarm to a mains-powered model that comes with battery back-up, costing €85. Mehan says homeowners should look for the European standard EN 50291 mark.
The Department of the Environment is looking at making carbon monoxide detectors and alarms mandatory in certain circumstances.
Any member of the Registered Gas Installers of Ireland will inspect appliances and install the alarms.
Pricing varies, depending on where you live. Oil and Gas in Sandymount, Dublin 4 charges €105 for this service and €69 for its battery-operated CO alarms.