As a property owner, whether this may be domestic or commercial, it is imperative to ensure that you are not only aware of basic gas safety, but also how to keep yourself and others clear from danger.
Gas can be incredibly dangerous to both your health and the environment, posing a threat to lives every year simply due to neglected gas systems and inability to spot major warning signs of a leak. Every year, we visit many property owners who are on the verge of putting individuals at risk as they have failed to carry out vital maintenance tasks. Here we discuss our top gas boiler safety tips and how to remain safe all year round.
Why Maintain Gas Boiler Safety?
A boiler is a key component in any central heating system, and although it may appear somewhat complicated, the sequence of steps required to heat a building is simple. Boilers are most commonly fitted in an easy to access space such as in a kitchen or bathroom and uses water pumped through an electrically powered system to carry heat to radiators. As boilers are fuelled by a continuous supply of gas, they can prove potentially fatal if left damaged or without maintenance.
Although many property owners are aware of the dangers of gas, many are less knowledgeable on the key maintenance tasks you must complete to remain safe and do not know the signs that there is a problem arising. So, we have put together all key information into one easy to follow guide.
Depending on your age or physical situation, you may be entitled to free annual boiler servicing. For example, those qualify for a pension or those who are chronically sick or disabled are eligible for booking a free boiler check-up. If you do not fall under one of these groups then you still must make sure that you pay for a fully qualified gas engineer to carry out a servicing – it can save lives!
Not only will an annual boiler service reassure you that all components are operating well and remain safe, but they will also help you to understand how you could use your heating more efficiently.
During a boiler service in Milton Keynes, your engineer will carry out a full inspection by removing the boiler casing to expose all of the internal components. They will check that your boiler maintains the correct gas pressure and flow, analyse whether it is burning the right mixture of gas and water then ensure all connections are in working condition. All pipework and safety devices will also be checked for wear and tear.
When chosing an engineer to carry out your annual boiler service, it is critical to aways make sure they are Gas Safe Registered; otherwise, they are illegally providing a service and cannot be trusted. The Gas Safe Register is an official database of businesses and engineers who are legally qualified to carry out gas work. Gas Safe engineers are awarded an ID card to prove that they are registered, so it is always worth asking to see this ID. The Gas Safe Register website also allows you to search for businesses through your postcode to find a registered engineer near you.
Fit A Carbon Monoxide Detector
In recent years, fitting a carbon monoxide detector in your property has become just as, if not more, important than investing in a fire alarm. Carbon monoxide is one of the biggest silent killers as it is a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas that cannot be detected without the sequence of sensors fitted in a carbon monoxide detector. Unlike a fire, there will be no prominent signs of a carbon monoxide leak in your home, however, if left undetected, can cause serious long-term harm to the body.
Carbon monoxide forms due to the incomplete burning of gas and thrives in enclosed spaces, which is why it becomes lethal when in a home or commercial property. One of the biggest causes of carbon monoxide is faults gas appliances, in particular, a faulty boiler.
Due to the advanced technology now available, there are many different types of carbon monoxide detectors on the market; all are incredibly effective. Some detectors work through a gel which changes colour when exposed to carbon monoxide, therefore triggering the alarm. Others are a little more complicated and use chemical-covered electrodes which change current when in contact with carbon monoxide, again then triggering an alarm. You also have the choice between opting for a plug-in or battery-operated detector. A battery-operated, similarly to a fire alarm, will be placed in a fixed position in one room. Whereas due to the nature of a plug-in detector, those can be moved from room to room.
The National Fire Protection Association has put in place a set of instructions on where a carbon monoxide detector should be placed in a building. If you are in the home, detectors must be placed outside the doors of bedrooms along with on each floor. In a commercial building, you must follow the latest legal regulations, take a look at Fire Safety Direct for more information on this topic.
Identify Common Boiler Faults
It is essential to make sure that you are aware of the most common boiler faults along with their level of urgency to get repaired and whether they are dangerous.
Faults that are least urgent include situations such as heating or hot water failing to work, a thermostat not working or a frozen condensate pipe. While all of these issues are most definitely not ideal and may leave you having to wear extra layers or wrap up in blankets for a while, they are not dangerous and can quickly be resolved. Broken heating or hot water is likely to be caused by a broken part or an airlock in the boiler system, and a frozen pipe is common in the Winter and can be solved through heating the pipe end. Lastly, a broken thermostat often only takes a few minutes of fiddling around to solve.
If you notice that your boiler keeps turning itself off or it is becoming incredibly noisy through gurgling or banging sounds, this is where the issue starts to become more serious. Although these types of issues do not pose an initial danger, they should be checked and resolved by a Gas Safe engineer before the problem has a chance to worsen. In the worst case scenario, ignoring noises or problems with power could lead to a boiler breakdown resulting in expensive repairs.
Prominent signs that you have a serious, high priority and dangerous boiler fault include water leak, a change in pilot light flame or no pilot flame light at all. A pilot changing into an orange or yellow shade is a good indication that your boiler is experiencing combustion issues. Poor combustion could lead to a build-up of carbon monoxide. You must turn off your boiler immediately and enlist the help of a Gas Safe engineer to take a thorough look.
Warning Signs Of A Gas Leak
Although a gas leak is often one of the hardest dangers to spot, there are a few tell-tale signs that you must be aware of to ensure that you remain safe and vigilant.
The first is the smell, which often comes as a surprise to many as pure natural gas is completely odourless. However, when mixed with chemical mercaptan, a distinct, putrid smell forms. You will undeniably be able to spot the smell of a gas leak as many describe it as the odour of strong rotten egg or garlic-like smell.
Next is the sounds, which is the sign most property owners are aware of, and it is exactly how you would expect a leak to sound, like a slow hissing. The sound of a gas leak is often only noticeable if you are nearby to the cause of the leak such as a pipe and it will sound as if air is being pushed through a small space.
Lastly, is how a gas leak will look. A gas leak causes excess air to rush out of a small area, which means that if you notice dust blowing around nearby to your boiler or furnishings, such as curtains moving when no windows or doors are open, it is highly recommended to take a look at your boiler.
Understand Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Now that you are aware of what carbon monoxide is and the importance of fitting a carbon monoxide detector in your property, it is vital to understand common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.
According to the NHS, accidental carbon monoxide poisoning leads to around 25 deaths every year in the UK and is caused by a lack of oxygen in the body. When the body is exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide, it quickly enters the bloodstream and interferes with the red blood cells that are responsible for transporting oxygen around the body; these are called haemoglobin. A mix of haemoglobin and carbon monoxide form carboxyhaemoglobin, which makes the body incapable of carrying oxygen, therefore causing the cells and tissues to fail.
Symptoms of mild carbon monoxide are incredibly similar to those of the common flu or food poisoning, which is why carbon monoxide poisoning often goes undiagnosed. People will experience a tension-like headache along with sickness, dizziness and breathing difficulties. One of the biggest ways to tell carbon monoxide poisoning apart is that, unlike when suffering from the flu or food poisoning, you will not have a high temperature or fever.
The severity of carbon monoxide poisoning quickly worsens the longer than you are exposed to the gas and symptoms can become increasingly dangerous. Over time, you will start to feel as if you can no longer maintain your balance, your vision will begin to become blurry, and you will eventually lose consciousness.
Long-term exposure to carbon monoxide will have a significant impact on the brain resulting in neurological problems such as memory loss and worst case, Parkinson’s disease.
Those who have been exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide will need to undergo Hyperbaric oxygen therapy to remove all carbon monoxide from the body. Therapy will include pumping high-pressure oxygen into a hyperbaric chamber, which is a form of enclosed box sufferers will have to lay in for set periods of time.
Keep Your Property Safe From Gas Dangers
Gas leaks can be incredibly dangerous and is a scary thought for many. However, with regular maintenance and annual boiler servicing with a Gas Safe engineer, keeping your property free from gas-related dangers is a straightforward task. Always ensure that you have a fully-operating carbon monoxide detector fitted which is in good working condition and remains on at all times.
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