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Gas & Carbon Monoxide Safety

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

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.

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 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 six main symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning:

If you believe you may be suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, make sure you get outside into the fresh air. Open all doors and windows in your home and turn off any gas appliances. Make your way to your local doctor or hospital as soon as you can – they can do a simple blood/breath test to confirm or dismiss your symptoms as carbon monoxide poisoning.

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.

A way to keep your central heating in safe working order is a simple annual service which should be performed by a Gas Safe registered engineer. All of Help–Link’s engineers are on the Gas Safe Register and can be at your home quickly. To book a service for your gas system please contact us here.

How to stay safe

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.

According to Gas Safe, in a gas emergency it is important to act quickly and take the following steps:

  1. Get fresh air immediately. Open all doors and windows to ventilate the room.
  2. Switch off the appliance and do not use it again until it has been checked by a Gas Safe registered engineer
  3. Turn off the gas supply at the mains and do not operate any electrical switches. Do not turn your gas appliances back on until it has been deemed safe by a qualified engineer.
  4. Call the National Gas Emergency line on 0800 111 999
  5. If you, or someone else, are feeling ill move to a position outside the building and visit your GP or the hospital immediately and tell them that your symptoms may be related to carbon monoxide poisoning.
  6. Contact a Gas Safe registered engineer to check and fix the appliance.
  7. Carbon monoxide poisoning is an uncommon but potentially fatal outcome of poor gas works and can be hard to detect without an all important carbon monoxide alarm (If you don’t have one of these in your home put it at the top of your to-do list).

What to do in an emergency

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.

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. To qualify for a grant, you will need to meet certain criteria.

Want to talk your boiler options through?

A boiler is a big decision. If you want to talk through something in person, simply fill in the form below to give us an idea of where you are and one of our local advisors will give you a call back quick-sharp.

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