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Your safety should be your utmost priority no matter where you are or what appliances you are using. Winters bring with them a constant desire to staying warm and cosy at home.
Gas heaters are an affordable solution. However, the homeowner should not install the gas heaters on their own. Seek professional assistance where installation and servicing of gas heaters is concerned. An expert and qualified gas fitter should assess the heater.
An unsafe gas heater can be harmful to your life as well as your house. They can cause a house fire, or they might fill your home with fatal fumes like carbon monoxide. Gas heaters that meet all the standards of gas safety do not pose a fire risk.
It would help if you got your gas heater checked once every two years by a licensed gas fitter. The check-up, which checks for emission of carbon monoxide and various other issues, inspects your space heaters, central heating units, wall units and gas log fires. It is better to leave a window or door opened in the rooms that are running a gas heater.
Tips for Making your Gas Heater a Safer Option
Gas appliances are reliable, but you should always give them a safety check as you keep yourself warm. Here are some tips to help you run a health check on your gas heater and other gas appliances.
Check for Gas Heater Certification
The first step in ascertaining gas heater safety is to check for its certification. Make sure that the gas heater you use is certified by the Australian Gas Association. The gas heater should have plates that show that it meets the latest emission standards.
One thing that bothers people when they hear about certification is the price of the heater. However, owning a certified appliance does not mean you will dig deeper into your pocket. It will not cost you a lot to get your hands on a good quality certified gas heater.
Two Year Check-up
Experts suggest that gas heaters and other appliances, including electric devices, should also be serviced. The recommended time for a detailed service check-up is every two years. The check-up helps to prolong the life of your heater. It will also detect any underlying problems in the heater. An early diagnosis can protect you from potential hazards.
Even if you know quite a lot about your heater, let expert gas fitters perform servicing and installation. Follow all of the manufacturer’s guidelines and contact professionals at the right time. Make sure that you keep a record of every service done.
Safe from Hazards
Keeping your gas heater in good working order is important. Equally important is where you position the heater. Make sure to position your heater away from all furniture in the house. It would be best if you don’t place items on the top of the heater, especially garments. They might get burnt and cause a fire.
If you have small children or pets in your home, make sure that the heater is positioned upright and out of their reach. Do not use pressurised aerosols or flammable solvents near the heater because they might ignite.
Keep the Area Ventilated
When using a gas appliance, the main thing that you need to focus on is ventilation. Make sure that all the ventilation spaces present in the heater are open. None of them should be blocked, either temporarily or permanently.
If you have a flueless heater, make sure that the room has proper ventilation before leaving the room or going to sleep. Ensure exhaust gases are not re-entering the room and bringing in harmful gases.
Keep checking for blockage in gas heater piping. Check for signs like discolouration or stains on the walls as these often indicate there is blockage in the piping. A blocked flue means that the pollutants of the heater are being released into the room.
Such leakage can cause carbon monoxide gas and other chemicals to accumulate in your house. If you notice signs of blocked flue, immediately turn the heater off and call a licensed gas fitter. The fitter will check for blockage or leaks. The experts will also check the flue cowl for obstruction.
Check for Suspicious Smells
Small gas leaks are quite common in gas heaters. If you suspect there is gas leakage, do not wait until you are sure. As soon as you suspect there is leakage, switch off the system and ventilate the entire house until an expert arrives to check and fix the problem.
Open all doors and windows. Vacate space until the gas clears away. Once the accumulated gas clears, call a licensed gas fitter to assist you.
Select the Right Size of Heater
An important element that many people underestimate, and one that factors into the maintenance of a gas heater system, is selecting a correctly sized heater for a given space.
Choosing a properly sized heater ensures that it will not consume a considerable amount of energy and it will heat your room efficiently. Additionally, a small heater generates a small quantity of pollutants, although the pollutant would still be harmful to your health in the long run.
Health Problems Associated with Faulty Gas Heaters
A poorly maintained gas heater can cause health problems. One cause of poor health for a room’s occupant is carbon monoxide or the silent killer. Carbon monoxide is known as the silent killer as it is odourless and colourless. High levels of this gas can cause difficulty in breathing and even death by suffocation.
Children, older people, pregnant women, newborn babies and people with chronic lung and heart disease are at a greater risk, so care should be exercised when using gas appliances.
Common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include the following:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Weakness and confusion
If you continuously expose yourself to low levels of carbon monoxide, you may experience severe effects like flawed thinking and lost concentration. It can also cause emotional unpredictability, impulsiveness and irritability.
People might confuse the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning with those of flu. Make sure to see your doctor when you have flu-like symptoms that disappear when you are outside the house. Direct exposure to higher levels of carbon monoxide leads to unconsciousness, seizures and death. Therefore, schedule a carbon monoxide test when you experience any of these symptoms.
Regular Servicing of Gas Heaters
A gas safety check needs to be done as regularly as possible. Only a trained, professional and licensed gas fitter should be allowed to detect and correct all problems that cause your gas heater not to work properly. It is recommended that you seek professional gas heater service or inspection of your flue and chimney if:
- You spot a yellow or sooty flame
- The gas heater has not been serviced for at least two years
- You experience pops or bangs when lighting your gas heater
- The walls of the heater are extremely hot while it is on
Carbon Monoxide Alarms
Carbon monoxide alarms have revolutionised how people perform gas heaters safety checks. Buy an audible carbon monoxide alarm if you would like to install one. It is a useful additional safety check, but make sure that you do not rely on this alarm entirely.
When you buy one, have it installed by an expert to be sure it works properly. Maintain all gas heating appliances even if you have a sound carbon monoxide alarm.
There is no standard in Australia for servicing carbon monoxide alarms for domestic use. Get a warning system that meets European or US standards.
The manufacturers of carbon monoxide alarms suggest that you have your alarm installed near gas heating appliances. It should be place at a location where it can be heard from all other rooms in your home.
Besides an audible alarm, you should consider an alarm that provides both visual and audio warning. That way, you can tell when its electrochemical sensing cell expires.
Carbon monoxide alarms are readily available at local hardware stores. Installation instructions are present in the manufacturers’ booklet. You should follow all the instructions in it. They also provide details about suitable alarm installation locations around the house.
Make sure that you regularly check and change the alarm’s battery whenever it is needed or as advised by the manufacturer. Hardwired alarms work better if a certified expert is brought in to do the installation.
Things Not to Do with Gas Heaters
Here are the things you should never do if you are running a gas heater at home:
- You should turn off all gas valves before going to bed. Never leave the heater running even if the gas is shallow.
- Toxic gases from your gas heater can cause severe health problems. So, never use the un-flued gas heaters in the bathroom, bedroom or caravan.
- As discussed earlier, never store aerosols and solvents near your heater, even if the valves are off. Avoid that as much as you can. Even when the heater is off, its pilot light might be on.
- When using a gas heater in your house, make sure that you never throw rubbish like tissues, cotton buds, plastic wrappers and other things in the gas fire. Such activities might increase the size of the flame, or they may also affect combustion. The material you throw in may also produce dangerous pollutants, that can cause shortness of breath.
- Never use outdoor appliances like barbeques and patio heaters inside a room.
- Never allow children to fix valves or controls of the heater.
- Never place flammable materials like paper, books or clothes near the heater, especially when it is on.
- It is also not recommended to use a heater in an area where painting has just been completed or is still going on.
- Never try to disassemble or service the gas heater yourself.
The importance of a gas heater safety inspection is evident from all the problems a faulty heater can cause. Therefore, you should never ignore this.