Why is ventilation important?
Gas appliances need a continuous supply of fresh clean air for safe and efficient operation. In its simplest form, gas appliance are of one of three types – either open-flued, room-sealed or flueless.
If ventilation is restricted, and/or if a gas appliance is faulty, and/or has not been adequately maintained as the manufacturer of the appliance instructs, it can lead to incomplete combustion occuring, which as well as being inefficient leads to the production of carbon monoxide.
What is carbon monoxide and why is it dangerous?
Carbon monoxide is a molecule that consists of one carbon atom and one oxygen atom (its chemical formula is CO). If an appliance is unable to burn its fuel efficiently because of a fault, inadequate ventilation, and/or lack of regular maintenance/servicing, it may produce carbon monoxide which is a highly poisonous gas.While carbon monoxide is colourless, testless and odourless gas, it can be accompanied by other emissions that may produce a distinctive smell, although this is not always the case.
The effects of carbon monoxide poisoning are varied (depending on the individual and the amount of carbon monoxide being inhaled), but they typicall exhibit flu like symptoms within their victims – often leading to misdiagnosies by individuals and to some extent, the medical profession.
Some symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are:
Prolonged exposure to high levels of carbon monoxide or entering an atmosphere which is heavily contaiminated can lead to collapse, unconsciousness or even death!
The reason why carbon monoxide presents such a danger to humans and animals alike is that our blood, which transports oxygen around our bodies to feed our tissues and cells has a great affinity to carbon monoxide and will therefore combine with carbon monoxide in preference to oxygen. Carbon monoxide is then transported around the body, starving it of oxygen, whilst posioning it with the deadly gas.
If you suspect that you are suffering from carbon monoxide posioning, leave your property and seek immediate medical attention. If it is safe to do so, turn off your gas appliances (easiest way is to turn off your Emergency Control Valve located at the gas meter position – the handle should be horizontal to the pipe and not inline with the pipe, see illustration below), and ventilate the property by opening doors and windows.
How can I protect my family from carbon monoxide?
Gas appliances which are installed correctly, by competent gas professionals and which are serviced and maintained as required by the appliance manufacturer, will work perfectly safely.
Therefore, your first line of defence is regular servicing of gas appliances in accordance with the appliance manufacturer’s instructions – for most domestic gas appliances this will be annually.
Additional protection, which provides added piece of mind, is the installation of a carbon monoxide alarms conforming to BS EN 50291 and displaying a BSi Kitemark to every room containing a gas appliance.
Please note that CORGI does not recommend the use of colour change ‘spot’ detectors as these give no audible alarm as to the presence of carbon monoxide.
Carbon Monoxide alarms are available as single units or combined with other safety alarms, such as smoke alarms and are either battery or mains powered.
Are there any danger signals that I should look out for?
What should I do if I think an appliance is emitting carbon monoxide?
Switch off the appliance (where safe to do so), leave the property opening doors and windows as you go, and contact the Gas Emergency Service Provider on 0800 111 999.
Do NOT use the appliance until it has been examined by a competent and registered gas installer.
If a person has or suspects that they have been exposed to carbon monoxide, they should seek urgent medical advice.
For further information and support on carbon monoxide and its effects, see the carbon monoxide Consumer Awareness Alliance (COCAA) at www.becarbonmonoxideaware.com
Who is responsible for ensuring that servicing and maintenance of a domestic gas appliance is undertaken?
In short everyone, the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations places the responsibility for safety of the installation on the ‘responsible’ person for the installation. So, for a typical domestic dwelling, it will be the home owner. For rented accommodation it will be the landlord and/or managing agent (tenants need to assist landlords in terms of allowing access for planned servicing and maintenance visits).
The Regulations also place a duty on the ‘responsible’ person to employ suitably competent and registered gas installers to undertake ‘work’ on gas appliances. Details of competent gas installers can be obtained from Gas Safe Register at www.gassaferegister.co.uk or alternatively, by phoning 0800 408 5500.
What maintenance does a gas appliance require to keep it safe?
A competent and registered gas installer will inspect the appliance for any obvious signs of distress or defects, typically they will also enquire with the responsible person as to any problems experienced.
An installer will check and test safety controls inline with the manufacturers instructions, as well as ensure ventilation provisions are correct and effective (not blocked off), flueing is correct and operating satisfactorily, clean and check heat exchanger and flue ways, clean and check combustion chamber and burner assemblies (including pilot assemblies), check setting pressures and combustion performance, etc.
Are there places where I must not use a gas appliance?
There are locations whereby certain gas appliance cannot be installed or used, or there are limitations on maximum size to be installed in a given space.
Instances of locations are:
Instances of size limitations are flueless appliances such as some gas fires being located in rooms of a certain volume as well as requiring additional ventilation provisions.
Details of competent gas installers can be obtained from Gas Safe Register at www.gassaferegister.co.uk or alternatively, by phoning 0800 408 5500.
Can my flue be installed facing the house next door?
The answer is not straightforward and it does depend on how far the house is from a neighbouring boundary. Building Regulations and British Standard (BS) 5440-1: 2008 provide minimum clearances for flues from boundaries and re-entry points of dwellings.
If the flue system facing a neighbour’s property was sufficiently far enough away and complied with the Regulations and standards mentioned, then the flue maybe acceptable. However, there is more to consider than pure measurements.
Both Regulations and Standards require flues to be installed so as not to cause a nuisance. The nuisance factor is very subjective and is exacerbated by weather conditions and the greater use of more energy efficient appliances, in terms of ‘plumage’ generated – an effect similar to a kettle when it’s boiling.
So even if the flue is correct for distance and location, may still cause a nuisance factor for a neighbour! Best advice then would be to locate flues so as not to face a neighbour and thus avoid a nuisance issue altogether.
How often do I need to get my gas installations checked to ensure they stay safe?
Every appliance manufacturer will detail their own servicing requirements within their instructions and these should be followed. However, as a general rule most gas appliance should be checked/serviced every 12 months to ensure continued safety.
However, some appliances may need checking/servicing at less than 12 monthly intervals depending on the environment in which the appliance is installed. An example of such a case, would be an open-flued, floor standing boiler installed in a utility room, where family pets sleep in front of the boiler. Their hairs, particulalry long haired pets will be drawn into the boiler and the combustion process will be affected over time.
Should you have any concerns over the safety of your appliance or you notice problems, then you shouldn’t wait for the next planned service visit, but call your local Gas Safe Register installer to check your appliance is still safe to use!
What should I do if I can smell gas inside my house?
How do I turn off my gas supply and how do I have it turned back on?
If you are on mains gas, an Emergency Control Valve will be located next to your gas meter. The valve should have a handle, which when ‘ON’ is inline with the gas supply pipe. To turn off the gas, move the handle through 90° so that the handle cuts across the supply pipe – see illustration below.
If you note that your handle is missing, contact the National Emergency Service Provider on 0800 111 999 and they will fit one for you.
For LPG vessel supplies, an Emergency Control Valve will be located at the vessel off-take and additionally, a second Emergency Control Valve will be located before the supply enters the property – turn off one or both as required.
If you use LPG bottles, an Emergency Control Valve should be located next to the bottles and before the supply enters the property. For small LPG systems, whereby a single bottle is used, an Emergency Control Valve may not be fitted. In this case, the regulator off the bottle can serve as the emergency control and will have a lever for ‘ON’/‘OFF’ operation.
Do I need an annual Landlords’ Gas Safety check for a fire/cooker under one year old (under guarantee)?
Landlords are required by law to have their gas appliances and their flues checked for safety on an annual basis. However, if a new gas appliance has been installed, that appliance doesn’t require to be covered by a Landlords’ Gas Safety Check for the first 12 months of its life – the gas installer will have conducted safety checks/tests when they installed the appliance.
The appliance can be checked at any time within that first year, but subsequent visits should be annually.
What should I do if I see an appliance on a landlord gas safety check record that is listed as being unsafe?
The Landlord Gas Safety check record will contain details of any defect identified and any remedial action taken – in affect, the record serves to give a ‘snapshot’ in time of the condition of the gas installation.
If a safety defect is identified, the gas installer will advise both the tenant of the fault and the landlord so that appropriate action can be taken.
You or your landlord (if in rented accommodation) must ensure that any safety defect is rectified (by a Gas Safe Register gas installer) before the appliance/installation is used again. It is an offence under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations to use, or allow the use, of a gas appliance you know to be unsafe
Under no circumstances should you reconnect or use an appliance that you have been told is unsafe, until the fault has been rectified by a competent and registered gas installer.
Are there any signs or tips that will help me stay safe?