Carbon Monoxide and Motorhomes

28

Carbon monoxide (CO) in the confined space of a motorhome is very dangerous and can easily kill. Known as the Silent Killer; it is a tasteless, odourless, invisible and poisonous gas produced by sources such as petrol, diesel engines and gas fuelled appliances. In our motorhome, this might come from our heating, water-heating, refrigeration and generators. Breathing this gas can make you unwell and if you are exposed to too much, it will certainly kill you.

Look out for these symptoms

  • A dull headache.
  • Weakness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Nausea.
  • Laboured breathing.
  • Confusion.
  • Blurred vision.

Constant exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide might give you the symptoms listed above, and you might easily dismiss some of them as ‘flu’ like symptoms and ignore them.

A big and obvious clue might be there just waiting for you to make the connection. If you suffer these symptoms when away in the motorhome, but they ease up or disappear when you are not away in the van, then you should commission a suitably qualified professional to check all your motorhome appliances.

Generators

Those with onboard petrol generators should take extra care that exhaust pipes under the van are leak free. In America, on-board generators are common and so are deaths from leaky exhausts pipes! If you have an on-board gennie it’s good advice to always ensure a skylight is open when it’s running.

Portable generators should be positioned where the exhaust is carried away from the van and don’t underestimate the ability of even a slight breeze to push all the harmful gas into your (or your neighbours) motorhome or awning.  Though if your generator is noisy and you have neighbours you might not live long enough for the CO to kill you 😉

Barbecues

One would hope that no one is silly enough to bring their barbie into an enclosed place like an awning. But still people die for doing just that!

Protect yourself with a good quality detector

  • Test your detector at least once a week by pressing the test button.
  • Replace batteries at least as often as recommended by the manufacturer
  • Know the lifespan of the detector. Replace it according to the makers instructions; even if you think it works!

Don’t be a victim of this gas, it can make you and your pets very ill or even kill you!  Go buy a detector today, if you already have one, how old is it? When was it tested last? Do you need to change the batteries?

Decent detectors cost around £20-£30 and its one of those items where you are probably better off not buying a cheap knockoff and sticking to well known brands such as Kiddie, FireAngel and Honeywell 

There is more information about CO poisoning online on the NHS website.

 

Jim Brown

Jim Brown

Jim is a long time motorhome enthusiast travelling extensively in the UK and Europe. Averaging 12000 motorhome miles a year. He has owned many motorhomes both British and Continental. His present motorhome is a 27ft C class RV.
Jim Brown

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Jim is a long time motorhome enthusiast travelling extensively in the UK and Europe. Averaging 12000 motorhome miles a year. He has owned many motorhomes both British and Continental. His present motorhome is a 27ft C class RV.

28 Comments

  1. A few Questions about your Carbon Monoxide detector so I might later enhance the above article..

    1. Was your CO detector dealer fitted? If so where was it fitted?
    2. If the CO detector is something you fitted yourself, where did you fit it and why?
    3. Has your CO detector ever activated and did you find out why?

    Cheers (y)

  2. Fitted mine myself in the kitchen area above worktop and below wall cupboards. It has never gone off and just spotted that it 'expired' in May so have ordered a replacement.

  3. Hi Jim,
    Ours was not dealer fitted and it’s fitted in back bedroom just rear of cooker and fridge at just below sitting height as when I was fitting them in my last job we were advised that this gas rises and in that scenario older people sitting in their chairs at home very often would doze off so if alarm was at just around or below head height it would detect gas and alarm would activate. There was always a very grey area when it came to where they should be fitted. Hopefully in a van they would have drop outs for lpg gas and the CO will do the same.
    No ours has never activated

  4. we have one loose fitted by us we have it at top of window height as we have no wall space close to ceiling due to lockers, we have one each end due to length

    ours has gone off in the past 3 weeks, scarily due to ingress of exhaust fumes, see other thread ref sorting that, but one thing I would add, IMO it is important to get one with a display. take all alerts seriously, but if you know what the display number means (read the instructions) they will typically alarm at anything above 15ppm CO, which will do you absolutely no harm but you need to know about, ours read 50 for above alert, we pulled over and opened doors and windows, it soon dropped back to zero. We luckily were not too far from home closed air vents and took to Merc dealer to sort problem same week

    You need well over 100ppm for a long time to have significant effect, if several 100's though you would probably never hear the alarm 🙁

    A very scary fact about CO poisoning is that you lose the ability to move first, so you could be in a situation where you can hear the alarm and do nothing about it :(:( that would need to be an extreme event and in the small confines of a MH you should always hear the alert long before it would harm anybody

    I know quite a lot about this due to confined space training for work, but already knew a lot as I read up about it when my younger brother killed himself by gassing in his car over 35 years ago

  5. DavidG58

    A very scary fact about CO poisoning is that you lose the ability to move first, so you could be in a situation where you can hear the alarm and do nothing about it

    Aren't those the symptoms of those who are gassed and robbed of cash and iPads 😕

  6. A very useful thread. Self fitted combined smoke/CO2, fitted on cupboard above and slightly to the side of hob and fridge.

  7. Self fitted but has never gone off.

    However one van i was camped with had theirs go off. Apparently the fumes from the fridge were going out the external vents then going back inside the van from underneath. This was my understanding.

  8. Jim

    A few Questions about your Carbon Monoxide detector so I might later enhance the above article..

    1. Was your CO detector dealer fitted? If so where was it fitted?
    2. If the CO detector is something you fitted yourself, where did you fit it and why?
    3. Has your CO detector ever activated and did you find out why?

    Cheers (y)

    1. Dealer supplied one for us to fit …
    2. I bought a better one with a readout and fitted it roughly at shoulder level .. it's in the lounge area but not far from beds.
    3. Not activated so far

  9. Current van, dealer fitted, in bedroom area, wall mounted but at ceiling height.

    Never activated.

    Previous vans were both dealer fitted, wall mounted just inside habitation door, but still at a high level.

    No activations on either of those.

  10. Self fitted when I bought the van, as was the smoke alarm. CO alarm went off once when I was driving – no idea why – has not gone off since. Fitted to the outside of the bathroom compartment, so up high and fairly close to the middle of the van – if I remember rightly the fitting instructions said to avoid fitting it close to roof / outside wall intersections.

  11. icantremember

    1. Dealer supplied one for us to fit …
    2. I bought a better one with a readout and fitted it roughly at shoulder level .. it's in the lounge area but not far from beds.
    3. Not activated so far

    Exactly the same as us.

  12. It's very important to remember that the sensors used in CO alarms have a limited life expectancy – normally in the range of 5 or 6 years.
    Best to replace your CO alarm every 5 years – they're only around £20

  13. Ours is factory fitted, near the fridge and opposite the cooker. It hasn’t gone off since we bought our motorhome new 7 months ago. Does that mean (a) it’s brilliant and not subject to false alarms or (b) it’s complete rubbish and won’t go off even in the event of a genuine emergency? 🙂 or :(?

  14. Don't mean to go off thread , but talking of safety … Alays have a dry powder extinguisher know how to use it. .. I had two in my tag axle but one now as down sized . However . Min at least one & a thought of placement aswell …
    safety first ay ….

  15. We just replaced our CO detectors before our trip to France Belgium one on the wardrobe wall at head high in the rear lunge setting aria next to the heater.
    and one in the kitchen at head height when standing this protects the wee mans sleeping aria.
    we also have a smoke alarm fitted on the roof center of the van.
    battery's are changed annul and cooker boiler heating checked by a gas fitter usually in the autumn as we use our van all year round so the heating get's
    more use during the winter.
    the monitor i removed were for years old and working fine but i think a for year interval is OK with a van.
    and the cost was £46 pounds for both a small price to pay.
    bill

  16. Jim

    A few Questions about your Carbon Monoxide detector so I might later enhance the above article..

    1. Was your CO detector dealer fitted? If so where was it fitted?
    2. If the CO detector is something you fitted yourself, where did you fit it and why?
    3. Has your CO detector ever activated and did you find out why?

    Cheers (y)

    1. Not fitted by dealer , i fitted it about 4ft high above trauma heater / beside fridge
    2. Fitted myself
    3. Nope no false alarms yet

  17. 1. Not fitted by dealer, i fitted it 900mm above floor in rear area of PVC by rear doors. Immediately below bed, close to Truma Combi boiler.
    2. Fitted myself
    3. Nope no false alarms yet

  18. On another note do not use your gas cooking appliances to heat your MH they emit large amounts of carbon monoxide ,make sure you ventilate the vehicle when cooking, I know it`s a daft suggestion but, not everybody thinks about it especially our newish members(y)(y)(y)(y)(y)(y)(y)

  19. We had one with an LCD screen I fitted in the caravan. Definitely better with the screen, while cooking you can see the ppm count go up and back down without alarming.
    The one in the van now hasn't got a screen and has never gone off. I'll replace it with a better one soon, it's 3.5 years old and I put new batteries in it earlier in the year. It didn't chirp, I decided to test them and they were quite low.

  20. I will never forget the case of those two children, Bobby & Christie who died whilst on holiday in Corfu from Carbon Monoxide poisoning. So terribly sad 😔 & due to botched work done on the boiler that their apartment shared with another.

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