Is your gas heater safe?
Stay safe and warm this winter
You can’t see it or smell it. But while your gas heater is running, poisonous carbon monoxide could be spilling into your home.
Unserviced gas heaters can spill carbon monoxide (CO) – a gas that you can’t see or smell but can make you seriously sick or kill you.
Keeping your family safe and warm is simple. Get a licensed gas fitter to service your heater:
- at least every two years or to the manufacturer’s instructions; or
- if the heater is over 10 years old, have it serviced each year.
Check the manufacturer’s instructions, as some heaters need fresh air flow to operate safely.
Check that you gas fitter is licensed.
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Service your gas heater for winter
Because you can’t see or smell carbon monoxide you won’t be able to tell if your heater is spilling carbon monoxide into your home. The first warning signs are often headaches, nausea and fatigue. To avoid carbon monoxide leaking into your home and making you sick, adequate ventilation and maintenance are vital.
Building and Energy recommends that appliances are serviced as per the manufacturer’s instructions or at least every two years by a licensed gas fitter. If the appliance is more than 10 years old, they should be serviced annually.
Check the ventilation requirements
Adequate ventilation is required for the safe operation of open-flued and flueless gas heaters.
Ask your gas fitter to check that the room where the gas heater is installed has adequate ventilation and it is compliant.
Open-flued heaters use gas and draw air from inside the room for combustion. If incorrectly installed, left unserviced or there is insufficient ventilation the heater can release carbon monoxide and other dangerous gases into the room.
To find out if your heater is open-flued, call the supplier or ask a licensed gas fitter next time you have your heater serviced.
Flue-less heaters can be extremely dangerous if not serviced or maintained. They consume air and release combustion products into the room and the air you breathe. To ensure combustion products are kept at safe levels, fixed ventilation is required.
By law, if the room is fitted with a gas bayonet to allow the connection of a flue-less gas heater or has a rigidly connected flue-less gas heater, two permanent ventilation openings must be installed. The vents must provide an air path to the outside of the building and one vent must be installed at low level and the other vent at high level.
Use your gas heater safely
- Check if a safety alert or recall has been issued for your gas heater.
- Check the service sticker on the appliance, is it due for a service? Call a licensed gas fitter.
- Check that the room is adequately ventilated and that permanent ventilation openings are not blocked.
- Check the outer case of your heater. Is it discoloured? Discolouration is an indication of a faulty flue or appliance and that it is time to have it checked by a licensed gas fitter.
- Don’t use kitchen rangehoods or exhaust fans at the same time as your heater. This can create a negative pressure environment, where carbon monoxide could be drawn into living spaces.
- Don’t leave your gas heater on for extended periods. Ensure you turn your heater off when you don’t need it.
- Install a carbon monoxide alarm as a back-up measure.
- If your heater is very old, consider replacing it.
- Never bring portable outdoor gas appliances indoors.
How to tell if carbon monoxide is making you sick
Carbon monoxide building up inside your home can make you sick for a short period of time, have long-term health effects or even kill you and your family quickly. You may not know you have been exposed to potentially fatal levels of carbon monoxide until the symptoms become severe.
If you notice any of the following symptoms, they could be caused by carbon monoxide leaking from your heater:
- Feeling sick or nauseous.
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat.
- People and/or pets getting sick at the same time.
- Feeling unwell only when you’re at home.
Act quickly if you think your heater could be making people sick
- Call Health Direct, see your doctor or dial 000 in an emergency
- Turn the heater off straight away, open windows and doors to let fresh air into the house.
- Leave the house immediately and get into the fresh air.
- Do not use your heater until you have had it checked by a licensed gasfitter.
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