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Heating your home with gas

2020 has posed challenges that are unprecedented. This winter entire families will be staying at home for longer periods. We want you to stay safe while staying warm.

Gas heating is generally a safe way to keep your house warm. But if you don’t use your heater properly, or your house does not have appropriate ventilation (fresh air) your gas heater can spill carbon monoxide and become dangerous.

Carbon monoxide – what are the risks?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a gas you can’t see or smell.

When it spills from your gas heater, it can make you very sick or even kill you and your family .

Any gas heater can spill CO – including old and new heaters, central heating units, space heaters, wall furnaces and decorative log fires.

To avoid the risk, ESV and the VBA recommends that all gas heaters are serviced at least every two years by a qualified gasfitter. A qualified gasfitter will inspect your heater and check its installation, including testing for CO leakage.

Use your gas heater safely

  • Have your heater serviced at least once every two years by a qualified gasfitter – you can check their licence online.
  • Check if your heater is affected by a safety alert.
  • Ensure adequate ventilation in your home – check your permanent ventilation is clear, and leave a window open if necessary, especially if your heater is open flued.
  • Don’t use kitchen rangehoods or bathroom exhaust fans at the same time as your heater. It can create a negative pressure environment, drawing carbon monoxide into living spaces. Read more here.
  • Don’t leave your gas heater on overnight or for extended periods.
  • Check for changes in how your gas heater operates, for example, if the flame changes from its usual colour. If there is any change, you must get a qualified gasfitter to inspect your gas heater and check it for CO leakage. If your heater is old, or hasn’t been serviced for several years, consider replacing it.
  • Install a carbon monoxide alarm as a back-up measure.
  • Know the symptoms of CO poisoning and act quickly if you notice them.

Don’ts

  1. Do not bring outdoor gas appliances inside your home, caravan, car or tent.
  2. Do not attempt to fix your gas heater yourself – gas work is not a DIY project (you must call a qualified gasfitter).
  3. Do not use gas appliances for purposes other than their intended use e.g. do not use a gas cooker, cooktop or oven as your heater.

Better Health has a Cold Weather Fact Sheet with tips on keeping warm and safe during the winter months.

Carbon monoxide alarm

If you are considering purchasing one or more carbon monoxide alarms, remember to:

  • select alarms that meet US or EU carbon monoxide standards, including recommendations for use and installation.
    On the alarm it will indicate that it complies with one of the following standards:

    • UL2034 (US) or
    • EN50291 (EU)
  • select alarms that provide visual and audible alarms indicating when the electrochemical sensor or battery has expired.

While these alarms may provide an indication of the presence of CO, their effectiveness is limited to the location where they are installed, as CO levels elsewhere in the room may vary.

Installation

CO alarms can be purchased at your local hardware store.

  • Follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions. This should detail where the alarm is to be located.
  • Regularly check and change the battery as advised by the manufacturer.
  • Hard-wired alarms must be installed by a licensed electrician.

Safety advice – open-flued heaters

Open-flued heaters can spill carbon monoxide more easily than other types of heaters, making them more dangerous.

Check if a safety alert has been issued for your heater and follow the advice for getting it tested for CO.

Learn more about open-flued heaters and air flow.

Safety alerts

ESV has released safety alerts for the following gas heaters. 

People with these gas heaters in their homes need to contact the supplier and get them checked by a qualified gasfitter immediately.