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Vast majority of carbon monoxide alarms reported to have failed tests

The Trading Standards Service has issued a warning to agents, landlords and consumers after independent tests on CO carbon monoxide alarms found that eight out of 10 failed.  

The warning comes as new smoke and CO legislation comes in to force on Friday demanding that all private sector landlords regularly test alarms in all properties to let. 

The alarms are sold to alert users to rising and dangerous CO levels, yet when Trading Standards sent 10 types of alarm for testing to the British Standard, eight failed. 

The tests raise issues relating to the sensor inside the alarms having a limited and indeterminable life with earlier research highlighting that up to 45 per cent of CO alarms less than a few years old are no longer sensing gas.

“To effectively test CO alarms and ensure [agents and] landlords meet the new legislation they need to test the sensor and not rely on the so-called Test Button which just tests the battery, buzzer and electronic circuit. This can only be done by injecting a specific and safe level of test gas over the alarm” says a spokesman for Gas Safe Europe.

For more information visit https://www.gassafeeurope.com

  • john stones

    So, landlords must have working alarms from October 1st or face fines of £5K but Trading Standards report that 80% of CO alarms are not working. Landlords caught between a rock and a hard place. The good news is that if a landlord tests a CO alarm and finds that it is not working they can send it back for a refund or replacement. Most have been sold with a (ridiculous) seven or ten year warrantee in a marketing ploy to give the impression of low annual cost. Test it and send it back if the sensor is not working. The technology has improved over the last ten years so a new one will be better than an old one. If it's still under warrantee take advantage. You must sensor inclusively test though as the test button only checks the battery, buzzer and circuit, not the sensor ( the part most likely to fail ).

  • David Timms

    I wonder what the fail statistics are for smoke alarms?

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  • Kenny Sahota

    This leaves landlords in a rather sticky spot. How are landlords supposed to adhere to the law when they're most likely going to be provided with faulty equipment? Perhaps these should have been tested prior to the day before the deadline!

  • john stones

    Kenny, you are right but the Law was rushed through. The issue of sensor inclusive testing was much discussed in the debate in the House of Lords on September 6th. You can see this in Hansard.

    I was asked to write a brief on the subject for the debate by Baroness Finlay of Llandaff and she put forward a good case.

    A period of grace was requested by Lord Marlseford to allow landlords to meet their obligations but this was declined on the basis that landlords will have 28 days to comply if found in breach.

    We are being asked to supply Detectagas to various councils to enable them to sensor inclusively test. Councils have been told to pay for this work by self financing i.e. fines.

    On top of all that Trading Standards announced last Monday that 80% of the alarms they tested were not working.

    Had alarms been sensor inclusively tested in the first place the industry would not be in such a pickle. The government has been mislead by the industry who have infiltrated committees as technical experts to further their commercial interests.


    Smoke alarms have a different technology and can last over ten years although the recommendation is to then replace. CO alarms have a sensor which ages due to exposure to ambient CO, heat and moisture. They have a filter which can become blocked with cigarette tar, cooking fumes and other airborne particulates. Of course, the outer case can become blocked too.

    I am afraid that the only way to ensure that your CO alarm is fully working is to sensor inclusively test. I invented Detectagas for this purpose 15 years ago after I sat on the first British Standard committee. At least you can return it for a replacement if it's in warrantee.


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