As we enter the warmer summer months, the maintenance and cleaning of chimneys, boilers and flues may not be a priority for many people.
However, following a recent near miss by Galway Bay FM host Keith Finnegan, the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI ) is urging homeowners to check ventilation shafts for any blockages caused by birds, plants and other wildlife to help reduce the risk from Carbon Monoxide.
On average, six people die every year because of unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning and many more fall ill. It is estimated that two in five adults do not have a CO detector installed where they live, potentially putting them and their family in grave danger.
Last week, Keith Finnegan, who hosts a popular morning chat show on Galway Bay FM, recounted his recent experience with a blocked boiler flue, saying he felt very fortunate that the consequences were not more serious.
“We had been away for the weekend and my daughter arrived home to find the CO detectors blaring throughout the house. She opened all the doors and windows and was told to get outside immediately,” said Mr Finnegan.
“We later discovered that a bird had built a nest in the boiler flue and the fumes were being pushed back into the house as a result. It took more than two hours to get the all-clear. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that something like this could happen to me. I have always been very conscientious when it comes to carbon monoxide awareness, and I had installed CO detectors all over the house. I am just glad that no one was injured or worse,” he said.
Open fires, boilers and solid fuel stoves produce deadly carbon monoxide fumes, which can then seep into a home if the chimney or flue is obstructed by birds’ nests, spider webs, climbing plants or other debris.
NSAI is recommending that homeowners commit to the regular inspection and annual maintenance of appliances, vents, flues and chimneys by a qualified service agent. However, if your chimney is blocked by a bird’s nest and there are eggs already present, it is illegal to remove the nest until the chicks have fledged or left the nest.
If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, stop using any fuel burning appliances, ventilate the property and visit a doctor immediately. Arrange for an inspection of your appliances by a registered gas installer, oil technician or qualified service agent for your fuel type before reusing the appliance, or if you burn coal in an open fireplace, arrange to have to chimney cleaned regularly. And, of course, install an audible carbon monoxide alarm.