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Gas and carbon monoxide safety

Boilers: they do a great job of keeping the household cosy and warm.

But in return, they need a little TLC from time to time. It sounds scary but, sometimes, when boilers get old or are poorly maintained, they can release dangerous carbon monoxide gasses that can lead to illness or even death.

Similarly, gas pipes, cookers and boilers can leak, increasing the chances of fire or explosion.

To ensure that never happens, we’ll tell you exactly what you need to do in order to stay safe from what has been referred to as a ‘silent killer’.

What is carbon monoxide poisoning?

As carbon monoxide is a toxic gas, inhaling too much can lead to poisoning. If you breathe a large amount of carbon monoxide, you’ll feel unwell and the consequences may even be fatal.

A high level of carbon monoxide is dangerous in any home, which is why it’s vital your boiler is serviced regularly and quickly repaired if damaged.

How does this happen?

Carbon monoxide begins to appear when fuels such as oil, coal, wood, and particularly gas, don’t burn properly.

This could be a result of your boiler not working efficiently any more, or because it has a blocked or leaky flue.

There are other ways these dangers can surface, mainly stemming from having an old or poorly-maintained boiler in the house.

What about gas safety?

As well as potential carbon monoxide problems, gas appliances and pipes can leak. This could be because they have become faulty with age, or from being poorly maintained.

If this happens, the largest worry is around fire or explosion. The Health and Safety Executive suggests that gas pipes, appliances and flues are maintained, serviced and installed by a Gas Safe registered engineer, like the ones you get through Help-Link. They will carry out a range of gas safety checks, which can give you complete peace of mind.

How to stay safe

Although the consequences of poor gas and carbon monoxide safety can be serious, it’s comforting to know that it’s easy to ensure your boiler is safe. The first step is to have your boiler serviced by a qualified engineer, and, if they recommend it, upgrading to a new one.

We offer a full annual service, which can not only make sure that your boiler is safe, but ensure your warranty stays intact and keeps your system ticking over until it’s time for the next service.

If your boiler is dated – usually when it’s 10 years old – or hasn’t been serviced for a long time, it may be a better option to upgrade your system.

We have a range of boilers to buy, and you may also be able to receive a grant from the government if you’re in a position where paying for a new boiler might not be possible. You do have to meet certain criteria, however.

How to spot carbon monoxide in your home

The easiest method of guarding against carbon monoxide poisoning is to have a carbon monoxide detector. These work a bit like a smoke detector and should sound an alarm when the level of carbon monoxide is too high. These can cost as little as £15 and are easy to set up.

However, you should also be aware of other things to look out for, no matter whether your boiler is brand-spanking new, or if it has a fair few miles on the clock.

Despite it being difficult to detect by sight or smell, there are some tell-tale signs of carbon monoxide’s presence in the house. These include gas flames burning with an orange colour instead of the usual blue, and soot stains above appliances that burn fuel, including boilers, cookers, and ovens that may have been incorrectly fitted or have become faulty.

There are also symptoms you or others might also be experiencing, such as dizziness, breathlessness, headaches and nausea. It’s even possible to lose consciousness.

Also, be aware that if your coal or wood fire is struggling to stay ignited, this may be a result of carbon monoxide being present as well. This is a sign that there is less oxygen in the air, and therefore fuels are struggling to burn properly.

How to recognise a gas leak in your home

Fortunately, the gas that’s sent to homes to fuel things like cookers, fires and boilers has a scent added so it’s possible to smell when there’s a leak.

You may also feel dizzy, light headed, or nauseous. If you do, try getting some fresh air. If the symptoms subside, that could suggest they are being caused by inhaling gas.

What to do in an emergency

If you smell gas or think that you may have a gas leak somewhere then you should call the National Gas Emergency Service line straight away on 0800 111 999.

Open your windows and doors to let air in, make sure all gas appliances are turned off and turn the gas off at the mains if possible. Do not operate any electrical switches.

Alternatively, if you feel you are suffering from the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, you need to act quickly, turn off all gas appliances, ventilate the property and move to a position outside the building. You should seek medical attention immediately.

If you believe someone has been overcome by carbon monoxide, they must be evacuated to a position in fresh air and you should contact the emergency services.

Please remember, do not turn your gas appliances back on until it has been deemed safe by a qualified engineer.

Our call centre team are on hand 24 hours a day, so we are prepared for any urgent situation. You can call us on 0203 841 5320 or contact us online, and we will arrange for an engineer to come out to you as quickly as possible.

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