Gas safety at home: A guide to staying safe
From heating your home to warming food, gas appliances play a key role in making our lives as comfortable and convenient as possible. However, they don’t come without their own risks, which makes checking and maintaining them incredibly important.
As a homeowner, you want your house to be as safe as possible for you and your loved ones, so we’ve put together this guide to gas safety at home that’s full of tips to ensure your property is protected.
We will cover:
Be aware of the risks of faulty gas appliances
Before you can make your home as gas safe as possible, it’s important that you know the risks that a faulty appliance can pose to you and your family.
According to research by the Gas Safe Register, only a third of UK adults are aware of the warning signs of an unsafe appliance, with 17% admitting they don’t check them at all. Over the past five years, there have been 833 gas-related incidents in the UK resulting in at least one injury as well as over 6,000 dangerous gas fittings in non-rented properties (HSE, 2013-18).
This shows just how widespread the risk of faulty gas appliances can be and why it’s so important to understand the most common risks. Below, we’ve set out the biggest risks posed by faulty gas appliances and flues.
Gas leaks are one of the most common hazards that are caused by faulty gas appliances. From an unsecure fitting to cracked pipework, there are quite a few different ways that gas can escape into your home. An undetected leak can be the source of even more serious, life-threatening problems like poisoning or fires and explosions, depending on the substance.
Natural gas supplied to homes for heating and cooking purposes is not poisonous, unlike carbon monoxide. It has a distinctive odorant added to it so it can be detected easily if leaked. So, if you smell it, be sure to take action immediately and call the National Gas Emergency number on 0800 111 999.
Also, if you spot any damage or signs of corrosion (like rust) to gas-carrying pipework, be sure to get in touch with a qualified engineer as quickly as possible so repairs can be carried out and a leak is avoided. The engineer will conduct a tightness test to check for leakage, as well as a visual inspection of the installation to confirm the pipe is in good condition.
Fires and explosions
One of the mostly deadly consequences of a faulty gas appliance is a fire or explosion. Natural gas used in our homes for heating and cooking is very combustible, which means that it’s a major hazard if it leaks out into the open where there may be a source of ignition. Because gas can spread very quickly and find its way into every room in your home, it’s vital that a leak is reported as soon as possible.
Carbon monoxide poisoning
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a by-product produced when fuels, like natural gas, are not burned entirely. This means that when a faulty gas appliance is fired up, there’s the potential for a leak.
Unlike regular gas, CO doesn’t have a scent, so it’s more difficult to detect, and is very poisonous, where prolonged exposure can result in death. In fact, the NHS reports that there are around 60 deaths every year from overexposure to this deadly gas.
You can find out more about what the causes, symptoms, and risks of CO poisoning, as well as what to do if you’ve got a leak in our carbon monoxide guide.
Recognise the signs and symptoms of a gas leak
We’ve mentioned a few of the tell-tale indicators for gas leaks, but there are many warning signs that you should be on the look out for. These include physical signs and medical symptoms, which we’ve listed below.
Gas leak signs
- A sulphurous smell (similar to rotten eggs)
- A hissing sound near gas pipework
- White or dusty cloud near gas pipework
- Bubbles in water
- Damaged or corroded gas
- Dying houseplants
Gas leak symptoms
- Breathing problems
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- Feeling fatigued or drowsy
- Irritated eyes and nose
- Changes in mood, such as depression
- Chest pains
- Pale or blistered skin
- Poor appetite
- Ringing sensation in ears
Are you a pet owner? You may notice some symptoms in your furry friend:
- Breathing problems
- Changes in mood or behaviour
- Disorientation and lethargy
- Poor appetite
- Red or watering eyes
Please note: You can find detailed information on carbon monoxide risks and signs in our CO guide.
Know what to do if you suspect a gas leak in your house
- If you think that one of your appliances is an immediate danger or you smell gas, you should:
- Turn off your gas supply at the mains.
- Air out your home as much as possible by opening doors and windows.
- Do not use any potential sources of ignition, such as light switches, electric doorbells, and mobile phones.
- Don’t smoke, use matches, or any device with a naked flame.
- Leave the property.
- Call the National Gas Emergency number on 0800 111 999 and wait for the emergency engineer to arrive — only use a mobile phone to do this once you’re clear of your house.
Should you suspect that a device is damaged but not a risk — for example, if you spot any damage or signs of corrosion (like rust) — then you should book a safety check as soon as possible with a Gas Safe registered engineer.
Undertake regular gas safety checks and servicing
One of the best ways to ensure your home gas appliances are as safe as possible is to keep them in good condition. And, having them regularly inspected and serviced by a qualified engineer is the most reliable way to do this. Below, you’ll find key information about gas safety checks and servicing.
What is a gas safety check?
A gas safety check is an inspection of all your gas appliances by a Gas Safe registered engineer, who will issue a gas safety certificate upon completion. They will follow gas safety procedures to test your appliances to ensure that:
- The gas is burning correctly
- The appliance is fitted securely and pipework is connected properly
- Any safety devices are operating in the right way
- Any flues and chimneys are working
- There is an adequate and permanent air supply
These gas checks are carried out in accordance with gas safety regulations that are set out in the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998.
What is a gas appliance service?
A gas appliance service is slightly different from a safety check. While all of the tests that are carried out in a safety check (above) are likely performed, a servicing also includes additional inspections and/or cleaning as instructed in the manufacturer’s instructions. These extras may include:
- A check of seals and gaskets to see if they are effective
- A visual inspection for signs of distress
- A performance check
It’s important to note that, while most services will cover the essentials set out in a gas safety check, they are a different entity and are not stringently regulated in the same way. The points inspected are, ultimately, down to the engineer or company performing the service.
Should I choose a gas safety check or a service?
If you’re choosing between a gas check and a service, it’s important to remember that a safety check follows a routine set out by the Gas Safe Register — the industry regulator — to ensure that your appliances are running without fault. A gas appliance service, on the other hand, is not guaranteed to do so, but you will receive a more thorough clean and extensive check.
The ideal solution is to find a competent engineer who offers a combined gas safety check and service, so you can get the best of both worlds. Here at All England Gas, we offer a combined gas safety check and service that will be carried out by one of our Gas Safe registered engineers. Take a look at our homeowner boiler care options to find a package that suits you.
How often should I book a gas safety check or service?
While gas checks are mandatory for landlords, they aren’t lawfully required for homeowners. That being said, it is highly recommended that you book in a regular check to ensure that all your gas appliances are functioning safely.
How long does a gas safety check or service take?
The gas safety check itself typically takes 30 minutes to an hour, but this can depend on how many appliances are being inspected. A gas service will usually take longer than this, owing to the fact there are extra maintenance tasks being taken care of by the engineer.
If you need to know how long the process will take from booking to completion, this will depend on a few factors, including engineer availability and whether there are issues found with any of your appliances. The best time to book a gas safety check is during the summer months, as demand for check-ups will be lower and you won’t be using the appliances as much, if at all.
How much is a gas safety check or service?
It’s difficult to give an exact price estimate for a gas safety check or service as each engineer or firm charges their own rates. You should, however, be wary of anyone charging a lower price than others as they may not be fully qualified to carry out the check or service — it’s always best to go with a competent Gas Safe engineer for the job.
One of the most affordable ways of ensuring your gas appliances are checked and serviced annually is by taking out a boiler care package with it included. Here at All England Gas, our boiler cover can include a check and service is available with options to suit your needs at affordable prices.
What happens if a gas appliance is faulty?
During your gas check, the engineer may find a fault with one of your gas appliances. All Gas Safe competent engineers will follow the Gas Industry Unsafe Situations Procedure (GIUSP) if they find that an appliance is unsafe. This gas safety check procedure requires the risk of the fault to be assessed before the right course of action can be taken, and a category is applied, either:
- Immediately Dangerous (ID): An appliance where, if left connected to a gas supply, may pose a risk right away, or;
- At Risk (AR): An appliance with one or more faults that may pose a risk in the future.
If the appliance is deemed ID, the engineer will make every effort to make a repair so that it is safe during their visit. If it’s not possible, they will explain the nature of the issue to you, request permission to disconnect and seal the gas supply, attach a “danger do not use” sign, and issue a warning notice with information about a further course of action.
If the appliance is deemed AR, the engineer will try to fix the problem during their visit. However, if that isn’t possible, they will assess whether the risk can be removed by switching the gas supply off or, if it isn’t, they will recommend contacting the relevant person or organisation who can solve the issue. Should your gas supply be switched off, the engineer will provide a danger sign and warning notice with a recommended course of action.
Choose a competent Gas Safe engineer for any gas work
For any gas checks, services, or other types of work, you should make sure that you book a Gas Safe registered engineer or firm that has been certified to be competent.
What is the Gas Safe Register?
The Gas Safe Register is the UK’s only register of competent engineers and businesses. According to law, for anyone to carry out gas works they must be on the register.
What does Gas Safe registered mean?
Any engineer who wishes to become Gas Safe registered and undertake gas work can only do so if they hold a valid and current qualification, which must be achieved through a recognised route of training and assessment.
By becoming Gas Safe registered, engineers receive instruction in the correct and safe way to conduct gas inspections and repairs. This means that you can be sure that any work is carried out to a very high standard and follows the rules and regulations set out by the law. As a result, you can relax knowing you and your loved ones are in safe hands.
Here at All England Gas, all of our engineers are Gas Safe registered, so you can be sure that they are fully competent. You can book a boiler installation, arrange boiler cover, or get an emergency callout with us and put your mind at ease knowing everything will be taken care of.
How can I check an engineer is Gas Safe registered?
To check an engineer is Gas Safe registered, you can use the search tool on the Gas Safe Register website to check an engineer, business, or your local area.
All Gas Safe engineers are also required to carry their Gas Safe Register ID card that confirms their status — you can ask to see this upon their arrival to verify their credentials.
The front of the card shows:
- A photo
- Start and expiry dates
- Licence number
- Security hologram
- Name of their employer
The back of the card shows:
- A list of relevant qualifications
- Dates of qualifications
The Gas Safe Register has a guide to understanding the Gas Safe ID card that’s worth reading ahead of a visit from an engineer.
Know what to inspect when buying a new home
When you are buying a new home, it’s important that you gather as much information as possible about every aspect of the house, including the state of its gas appliances and pipework.
The most common household gas appliances to pay attention to are:
- Gas-fired boilers
- Gas-fired water heaters
- Gas fires
- Flued cooking range
- Warm air heater
While there is nothing in the law that says that the previous owner or estate agent needs to provide you with information about past checks of the property’s gas appliances, it’s always worth asking as you may be able to get access to the house’s last gas safety certificate.
This document will tell you:
- When the appliances were last checked
- What appliances were checked
- The name of the engineer who carried out the check
- Details of any defects found
If you can’t get your hands on the previous gas safety certificate, it’s best practice to arrange your own gas safety check by a Gas Safe registered engineer before you move in. That way, you can be sure your investment is secure, and you can live safely in your new home.
There is a document that you should be able to access when buying a house: a Building Regulations Compliance certificate. This certificate is issued when a new boiler is installed to confirm the work has been completed by a Gas Safe engineer. And, as the certificate belongs to the property, not the owners, you can ask to see this and receive it by law, so be sure to check. It will also be a valuable document should the time come that you want to sell the house yourself.
Pay attention to your gas appliance’s vents and flues
All gas appliances have vents and a flue built in and they play a key role in their safe operation. Vents ensure that there is an adequate supply of air so that gas can be combusted completely without the production of harmful by-products, such as carbon monoxide. At the same time, flues are needed to make sure any of these combustion products are removed safely from your home.
In addition, ventilation plays a key role in your home, with the likes of air bricks and extractor fans ensuring there is a healthy air flow throughout. This is particularly important if your home has an older open flue boiler or gas fire, as they help to maintain the right environment for fuel to burn and to prevent the production of harmful by-products.
There are a few things you can do to ensure your vents and flues function properly:
- Avoid blocking ventilation: Blocking the flow of your gas appliance (or that of your home) will affect how much air can enter and exit, which can prevent gas burning completely.
- Keep flues clear and unobstructed: Ensure the flues from your gas appliance are never blocked or obstructed as harmful by-products may not be expelled from your home.
- Book in a regular gas safety check: An engineer will make sure that your vents and flues are working for safe operation of your gas appliance.
Can I install a gas boiler or appliance in a bedroom?
If you want to install a gas appliance, like a boiler, in a bedroom or convert a room with a gas appliance into sleeping accommodation, there are some rules that you need to abide by (The Gas Safety Regulations 1998, Part E, 30). Since the law changed in October 1998, any room used for sleeping should not have these gas appliances:
- A gas fire, space heater, or water heater (including boilers) over 14 kilowatts gross input unless its room sealed
- A gas fire, space heater, or water heater (including boilers) of 14 kilowatts gross input or less, or any instant water heater, unless its room sealed or has an atmosphere sensor.
If the room has one of these appliances and has been used as a bedroom before 1998, you need to perform a risk assessment to see whether it’s still safe to use for sleeping. See the Health and Safety Executive’s guidance for controlling risks if you’re not sure.
One of the easiest ways to maintain your home’s gas appliances is to take out boiler cover. At All England Gas, we have a range of packages for homeowners (as well as landlords) that will ensure you can protect your home at a price point that’s right for you.
We hope you’ve found the information in this guide useful in helping you keep your home gas safe. Got any questions about what we’ve covered here? Get in touch and we’ll be happy to answer them. You can find more guidance in our help and advice centre and FAQs.
Please note: The advice in the guide is intended to give you an overview of gas safety in the home. For the latest on laws and regulations, you should visit the Gas Safe Register and the HSE’s domestic gas safety guidance.