Over the coming weeks, and as the temperature drops, around 70,000 Canberra households will fire up their gas heater for the first time since last winter.
While many homes use gas year round for cooking and water heating, gas heaters normally have a break for around six months of the year. While these appliances are dormant they can build up dust, debris and even insects’ nests so it’s important to service them before use.
Some superficial cleaning can be done yourself however Evoenergy’s Gas Manager Bruce Hansen, recommends calling a professional for an annual service of all gas appliances, particularly heaters, for your own safety and peace of mind.
“Gas appliances have stringent requirements to ensure that consumers can safely enjoy the benefits of gas heating, hot water and cooking, but like any piece of equipment there are basic maintenance requirements to ensure continued safe and effective operation. It’s important that gas appliances are checked every year and maintained by a qualified gas appliance technician or gas fitter,” said Bruce.
“Understandably, heaters and other appliances with intermittent use can build-up dust over the warmer months and in extreme cases this can become a fire hazard.”
“In addition to cleaning and maintenance to ensure your heater is in good working order, at each service your gas fitter will check for leaks, check safety devices, operating pressure and ignition, and ensure your heater is combusting properly.”
“Heaters not combusting properly or with incomplete combustion can produce carbon monoxide, which if released into your house rather than outside, can be hazardous and even fatal.”
In Australia in recent times, most gas heaters have a flue, or chimney, which directs combustion products safely outside. However some appliances, particularly older ones, may not have a flue.
“Traditionally what we see with appliances designed to be used indoors is that they are installed with a flue, or used with a range hood, which carry all combustion products outside. But in the event an appliance is not combusting properly, or if the flue is blocked or leaking or the appliance is un-flued, carbon monoxide can be released inside,” said Bruce.
“When you breathe carbon monoxide mixed with oxygen, the body absorbs the carbon monoxide at a much faster rate than the oxygen, and once it is in the blood stream you can get very sick or become unconscious, even at low exposure.”
“We also advise people to only use LPG (propane) cylinders as they’re intended—outdoors, with maximum ventilation, and always follow manufacturer’s instructions.”
“As it gets colder, it can be tempting to bring this equipment inside, but please don’t do it, it’s just too dangerous. Propane appliances are quite safe when they are designed and approved for indoor use and are piped so that the gas cylinder is situated outside, but never use a propane cylinder indoors.”
In addition to annual servicing and maintenance, always follow up on any gas leaks or potential gas hazards.
“Although both natural gas and LPG are clear and colourless, you’ll definitely be able to notice a leak due to smell, which is caused by odourising compounds that are added to both types of gas,” said Bruce.
“Some people describe natural gas as having a ‘rotten egg’ smell due to the added mercaptan compound, but you might also recognise it as rotten cabbage, a strong sulphuric or ‘off’ smell or a skunk-like smell.”
“If you suspect you have a gas leak inside the home, ventilate the area well and call a licenced gas fitter as soon as possible. For a serious leak that you can hear, or if you suspect you have a gas leak outside at the meter or underground piping, please call Evoenergy on 13 19 09 and one of our technicians will come and investigate.”
Gas appliances that are appropriately certified, installed and regularly maintained will be safe, effective and efficient for your family for 15 years or more. Conduct an annual service check on your gas appliances today to ensure they’re safe and in peak condition for the winter.
For more information, or to download a copy of our gas safety fact sheet, visit https://www.evoenergy.com.au/residents/safety-advice/natural-gas-safety-tips.
Evoenergy works in close collaboration with the ACT Master Plumbers Association to encourage safe gas practices and raise awareness of gas safety. For information about gas safety in the local gas industry, contact Leigh Watson at Master Plumbers ACT on 0455 062 171.
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