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Gas Safety Guide

Britons collectively used 1,233 ktoe (kilotonne of oil equivalent) of gas in their homes in 2017. 85% of us heat our homes with gas-powered boilers, which also heat water, and most of us it to cook meals: while just 30% of us have gas ovens, 61% have gas hobs. And while accidents are rare, they can be dangerous. Gas leaks can cause injuries, as well as explosions and fires which can destroy homes, cause serious injuries and claim lives.

So how do you protect yourself and your family from leaks, poisoning, explosion, and fires caused by gas and gas-powered appliances? Read on for essential safety tips.

Only use an engineer who appears on the Gas Safe Register

and who can show an identity card to prove it-to install, repair, and service gas appliances

The Gas Safe Register is the official list of businesses and engineers who are competent and qualified to do gas work.

To be listed on the register, engineers need to hold relevant qualifications and demonstrate competence. Registration must be renewed every year and qualifications updated every five years. The Gas Safe Register also conducts inspections of the work of registered engineers.

When engaging an engineer to fit, fix, or service gas appliances, you should ensure that person, and their employer, is on the register. You can consult the register online or contact them via phone on 0800 408 5500.

You should also ask any engineer to show you their Gas Safe Register identity card. Check both sides: the front will show a photograph of the engineer, a registration number you can verify online, and an expiry date. The reverse will list the categories of work the engineer is qualified to undertake-for example, on boilers, cookers, and gas fires. It's important to note that not all engineers will be qualified for all types of gas work.

Have all of your gas appliances serviced and safety checked every year

All gas appliances should be safety inspected by a Gas Safe register engineer yearly and serviced according to the manufacturer's instructions.

During a safety check, the engineer will, at a minimum, ensure that

  • the appliance is set correctly so the gas is burning correctly
  • it is stable and securely installed and properly connected to gas pipes
  • it is a type of appliance suitable and safe for the room it is in
  • there is an adequate air supply for the type of appliance
  • flues and chimneys are open and operating
  • all safety devices work properly

During an appliance service the engineer will run the above checks and tests and cleaning as specified by the manufacturer of the appliance. These may include

  • an analysis of combustion exhaust gases to see that the appliance is burning gas safely
  • a check of the condition of the seals and gaskets and the cleanliness of heat exchanges
  • a check for signs of excess heat

If you have boiler cover, which you can sometimes acquire from your energy supplier, alongside your gas and electricity tariff, the annual servicing of your boiler, which normally costs £80, may be covered.

If you're a landlord, you're required by law to have all gas appliances supplied by you to be safety checked annually by a registered engineer. Pipework and flues should also be inspected.

If you're a tenant, you should receive a record of the annual gas safety checks on the property, known as the the Landlord Gas Safety record, at the start of your tenancy, and within 28 days of any new check.

Inspect gas appliances for signs they aren't functioning properly

You can't simply rely on a yearly safety check and service, however. Be alert to signs of malfunction in your gas-powered appliances that mean you need to have it serviced or fixed immediately.

These include

  • an appliance not working properly-for example, a boiler not heating water
  • lazy yellow flames rather than crisp blue ones
  • black marks or stains around the appliance
  • a pilot light that keeps going out
  • too much or increased condensation in the room

Install a carbon monoxide detector

A carbon monoxide detector, which can be purchased for around £20, can alert you to the presence of carbon monoxide in your home. You should ideally place one in every room where gas is being burned-for example, in the kitchen near a gas hob or beside a boiler.

Opt for an audible detector, which works much like a smoke detector, alerting you via a loud noise. Be sure to test the detector regularly and replace the batteries as needed.

If the alarm goes off, you should take the following steps to protect yourself and your family:

1. open all doors and windows to clear the carbon monoxide

2. turn off all gas-burning appliances, including boilers and cookers

3. evacuate the property and stay outside

4. don't turn on lights, light matches, or smoke-this can trigger a fire or explosion

5. Call the Gas Emergency Service on 0800 111 999. They'll dispatch an engineer to the property within an hour.

6. If you feel unwell or are exhibiting signs of carbon monoxide (see below), see medical advice, possibly by calling 999

7. Once the home is safe to re-enter, have any gas-powered appliances serviced

Be aware of the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning

Even with a properly installed and functioning carbon monoxide detector, you should be aware of on the look out for the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning.

These include

  • a tension-type headache
  • dizziness
  • nausea and vomiting
  • tiredness
  • confusion
  • stomach pain
  • shortness of breath and difficulty breathing

If you suspect, based on symptoms, that you're experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning, open windows and doors, switch off all gas-powered devices, evacuate the property, seek immediate medical advice, and contact the Gas Emergency Service.

If you smell gas, whether inside or outside, or experience any of the symptoms of exposure to natural gas (including feeling lightheaded, dizzy or nauseated and experiencing headaches), call the Gas Emergency Service immediately.