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Gas Heater Safety

Are you wondering whether a gas heater produces carbon monoxide (CO) or not? The answer is a straightforward yes. Every gas heater or other gas appliance releases carbon monoxide as they burn. Moreover, a larger amount of carbon monoxide production occurs if your gas heater burns with incomplete combustion.

This happens when your gas heater is malfunctioning or in need of service. Typically, if there is too much carbon monoxide in the air, inhaling that air can cause carbon monoxide poisoning, which is quite dangerous for your health.

Therefore, to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, you should be very careful and ensure that you maintain your gas heater’s overall condition. This article delves into what you can do to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning due to gas heaters, potential health risks and what to do if such poisoning occurs, and more.

Health Issues Linked To CO Poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisoning is harmful to both people and pets. It is especially harmful to kids, pregnant women, unborn babies, older people, and those suffering from chronic illnesses. If there is any fault or blockage in your gas heater or decorative log fire, then you and your pets will be exposed to carbon monoxide. Such exposure can lead to poisoning and cause severe tissue damage or even lead to death.

When there is an excessive amount of carbon monoxide in the air, your body will replace the oxygen in your red blood cells with carbon monoxide. As a result, it will be impossible for oxygen to reach your organs and tissues. Taking into account the amount and duration of exposure, the following can result:

  • Your brain can get damaged permanently
  • Your heart can get damaged with the possibility of life-threatening cardiac complications
  • It can result in the death or miscarriage of a fetus
  • It can potentially lead to death

At-Risk People Due To Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide exposure can be hazardous for:

  • Unborn babies – The blood cells of an unborn child take up carbon monoxide faster than an adult’s blood cells. As a result, unborn babies get easily affected by carbon monoxide poisoning, which is highly harmful due to their fragile state.
  • Older adults – The immune system of older adults tends not to be as great as that of young people. So carbon monoxide poisoning might lead to brain damage.
  • Children – Children usually breathe more frequently than adults. Simply inhaling air with carbon monoxide is already quite dangerous, so you can understand what will occur if there is more frequent breathing. There will be more carbon monoxide in the blood cells, which will lead to severe implications.
  • People with chronic heart disease – If someone has diseases like anaemia or other breathing problems, they will become more susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Identifying If There Is A Carbon Monoxide Leak

Carbon monoxide has no colour or odour making it challenging to know whether there is too much carbon monoxide in the air you are breathing. However, to understand whether a serious amount of CO has leaked, you might notice the following symptoms of CO exposure:

  • Headache, nausea, or vomiting
  • Muscle pain, weakness, or coordination difficulties
  • Flushing, shortness of breath, or dizziness
  • Confusion and chest pain
  • Blurry vision and loss of hearing

However, these symptoms are also pretty non-specific as other common conditions can cause such. As a result, to ensure that your symptoms are due to carbon monoxide poisoning, you should also check for other things. These include:

  • If other people and pets in your residence are also experiencing the symptoms mentioned above
  • If you notice an improvement in your symptoms when you stay outside
  • If you have not maintained your heater well and you are suspicious about its functioning
  • If the symptoms seem related to the use of your gas heater
  • If you have had an exhaust fan installed, or your wall vents have been blocked recently

The First Action To Take In Case Of CO Poisoning

Your symptoms might seem mild; however, keep in mind that carbon monoxide poisoning is a life-threatening condition. If you feel like there is a CO leak and you are being exposed to it, immediately open all your doors and windows to ensure enough air ventilation.

Then, get out of the house with all other family members and carry your pets with you. After that, if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, seek medical care as soon as possible.

Regular Maintenance Of Your Gas Heater

If you are currently a homeowner, then it is your responsibility to conduct regular maintenance of gas heaters in your household. Regular maintenance will lessen the possibility of a carbon monoxide leak and other air pollutants.

In the new Residential Tenancy Regulations 2021, rental providers must arrange gas safety checks for every gas installation and fittings in their rental properties. This sort of safety check must be regulated by a registered or licensed gas fitter every two years.

As you can see, the seriousness of CO poisoning makes gas heater safety checks a legal obligation. It might seem like a lot of unnecessary work, but it is for your own benefit.

Gas heater maintenance is a preventive heating service that offers a professional inspection and tuning up your heating system. This service provides the following things:

  • Inspection of the ventilation system and air intake grilles, also removing all the blockages
  • Check the heat exchanger to find out if there are any signs of damage or corrosion
  • Examining and cleaning the blower and removing the debris
  • Checking the flame sensor and burner
  • Examining the belts to discover signs of damage
  • Inspecting the thermostat and calibrating it if required
  • Lubricating each and every moving component of the heating system
  • Checking the air filter, cleaning it, and replacing it if required
  • Checking and testing the system start-up cycle and safety controls
  • Examining all the fuel lines as potential leaks may occur
  • Testing and checking the burner, gas pressure, and the pilot
  • Inspection of the thermocouple of your gas heater

These are the basic tasks involved in gas heater maintenance. Your inspector could add other steps if needed to adequately adjust, clean, test, or lubricate your heater.

When Should You Check Your Gas Heater?

According to the new Residential Tenancy Regulations 2021, you are bound to do the above-mentioned tune-up every two years, but experts suggest doing it every year. Annual gas heater maintenance will aid your gas heater system in running efficiently. However, if you are more concerned about indoor air quality, you can do it even more frequently, like twice or thrice per year.

Moreover, it is better to conduct a gas heater inspection before the cold season. This is based on the fact that you will be running your system on a daily basis when winter comes and the temperature drops. Therefore, the end of summer and the beginning of the fall is the best time to have your gas heater checked.

Using Approved Gas Heaters

There are multiple stringent standards on gas heaters and other gas appliances in Australia. If you buy Australia-tested, labelled, and certified gas heaters, then your indoor gas heater usage will be as safe as possible.

Unflued Gas Heaters

Unflued gas heaters significantly increase indoor carbon monoxide levels under certain conditions. Energy Safe Victoria (ESV) has raised safety alerts on multiple open-flued gas heaters. Those risky gas heater models include:

  • Regency i31 – It has been manufactured since 2010, and its supplier is Fireplace Products Australia Pty Ltd.
  • Regency F38 and FG38 – Also supplied by the Fireplace Products Australia Pty Ltd. However, up until 2006, Masport used to supply them.
  • Nectre 2000 – This gas heater model has been manufactured since 2007. Glen Dimplex Australia Pty Ltd supplies it all over Australia.
  • Real Flame Pyrotech – Also a Glen Dimplex Australia Pty Ltd supplied model that has been manufactured since the year 2012.

As a precautionary step, you are advised not to buy the models mentioned above. However, if you happen to already own any of these, do not use them until they have been tested and approved. You can also contact the suppliers to carry out a safety check on your heater. They will hire a qualified gas fitter for you and do any modification if needed; the suppliers will bear all the costs.

Consider Installing A Carbon Monoxide Detector

A carbon monoxide detector is a device invented for detecting the presence of carbon monoxide gas in the atmosphere. It also measures the carbon monoxide levels over time and sounds an alarm before dangerous levels of carbon monoxide are reached in the environment.

Therefore a detector will give you a warning before it is too late so that you can have the opportunity to ventilate your house and avoid health risks. Installing a detector with an alarm is without a doubt a useful backup precaution to avoid exposure to CO.

However, this does not mean that you should substitute proper installation or maintenance of your gas heater with a CO detector. Moreover, you must select alarms that meet EU or US carbon monoxide standards. You should also be careful about following the instructions for their instalments, uses, and maintenance.

How To Prevent Carbon Monoxide Exposure

To prevent carbon monoxide exposure via gas heaters, you should observe some preventive steps because prevention will most definitely always stamp any cure. Regular maintenance and usage of detectors with alarms have been covered above, but some other issues need to be considered. These are:

  • You should place your carbon monoxide detector and alarm in the hallway, as the hallway is near each sleeping area in your house.
  • Never forget to check the battery of your CO detector and alarm to ensure that it is always working as it should. Without batteries, it cannot detect levels of CO in the atmosphere or sound its alarm.
  • Whenever the CO detector’s alarm sounds, immediately leave the house and don’t forget to call the fire department or 000.
  • You should always use the appliances as advised or recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Using a gas stove or oven for heating your home is never a wise choice.
  • Avoid using fuel-burning space heaters when no one is awake to monitor them.
  • You should set your heater in a well-ventilated place. If there is no air circulation in a room, all the carbon monoxide produced by your gas heater will remain in the same place. This will easily result in carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Before returning to a place, you must service your gas heater if a carbon monoxide leak-related incident occurs.
  • Always make sure to keep your gas heater properly vented.

Maintain Your Gas Heater For Everyone’s Safety

Gas heaters are essential appliances. If you use and maintain yours properly, then gas heaters are not only safe but useful in keeping your spaces warm. Gas heaters are supposed to produce carbon monoxide; this is normal. But, you need to be concerned in the event of a leak.

Australia has come up with strict gas heater standards so that you can live safely. Moreover, there are licensed gas fitters and inspectors available to ensure your safety and many other facilities you have regarding this particular issue. Nothing is more comforting than the warmth you get from a gas heater.

Therefore, always be keen to ensure that you keep your gas heater well maintained. It is as easy as organising a regular safety check by a professional, using a CO alarm/detector, and observing some basic steps to keep your home well-ventilated. If you do the aforementioned, you and your family will undoubtedly remain safe. Enjoy your gas heater safely and stay healthy.

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