How Safe is My Boiler? A Guide to Boiler Safety Re August 11, 2020

How Safe is My Boiler? A Guide to Boiler Safety

Boiler Safety

A boiler is used daily to provide your home with hot water and heating, as with any appliance, it’s important to make sure it’s working correctly. This is especially important when it comes to an appliance that burns fuel as it has the potential to release harmful gases into your home.

In this guide we’re going to look at boiler safety issues and what to do about them. Never take any chances with a boiler, if you think there’s something wrong with your boiler and you’re wondering ‘How safe is my boiler?’, then make sure you call a Gas Safe registered engineer as soon as possible to test your boiler and make sure it’s safe.

Use a Gas Safe Engineer

The number one rule with anything related to a gas boiler is to make sure that you use a Gas Safe Registered engineer. You can search for a Gas Safe Engineer local to you using the Gas Safe Register.

To work on a gas boiler it’s a legal obligation to be Gas Safe registered. The register is a list of companies/engineers that are legally permitted to carry out gas work. Every engineer has a Gas Safe ID card so if you want to make sure just ask to see their valid Gas Safe ID card.

Gas Safe Register replaced CORGI as the gas registration body in Great Britain and Isle of Man on 1 April 2009 and Northern Ireland and Guernsey on 1 April 2010.

So if you know a guy that knows a guy that does gas work on the cheap, make sure you see his credentials, because it’s not worth cutting corners when it comes to gas safety.

Carbon Monoxide

One of the biggest dangers is Carbon Monoxide poisoning; known as the “silent killer” due to its lack of smell or taste, making it undetectable by humans.

Carbon Monoxide kills more people in the U.S every year than mass shootings and is responsible for up to 60 deaths in England and Wales.

Hundreds of thousands visit hospitals with symptoms related to Carbon Monoxide poisoning with symptoms including headaches, dizziness, stomach pain, and shortness of breath.

Carbon monoxide is produced when your appliance isn’t burning fuel correctly. If there isn’t enough oxygen for the gas to burn completely, carbon monoxide is formed as a waste product.

If you don’t get your boiler serviced annually, it’s recommended that you ensure your home is fitted with a Carbon Monoxide detector.

If you think you may have a Carbon Monoxide leak, you should call the Gas Safe Register on the following number during normal working hours: 0800 408 5500. You should also book an appointment as soon as possible with your GP, who will be able to perform a blood or breath test to check for carbon monoxide in your system.

Electric boilers
You don’t need to worry about Carbon Monoxide poisoning from an electric boiler as the carbon monoxide is produced by incomplete burning of fuel.

Oil boilers
Oil boilers can produce Carbon Monoxide as well as gas boilers as it is the incomplete burning of fuels that leads to Carbon monoxide being created. Fuels such as oil, wood, and coal can all create Carbon Monoxide.

Can a boiler leak Carbon Monoxide when it’s turned off?
A boiler won’t be able to produce Carbon Monoxide if it’s turned off as it’s created as a by-product of not having any oxygen to burn gas completely.

If you suspect Carbon Monoxide in your home then we recommend turning off your gas supply at the mains before you get a Gas Safe engineer round to check if Carbon monoxide is present and what appliance it’s coming from.

Carbon Monoxide Detector
Carbon Monoxide detectors have become much more advanced than they were even ten years ago. Gone are the days of little tiles with a colour-changing patch on them, they have been replaced by sophisticated smart technology such as the Google Nest Protect.

The Google Nest Protect informs you of smoke, fire, and carbon monoxide threats and will even inform you if you aren’t at home through the smart app.

The Nest Protect retails at around £90 but there are much simpler Carbon Monoxide alarms available starting at around £10 that will sound an alarm if Carbon Monoxide is detected but don’t have smart functionality.

Can radiators leak carbon monoxide

Radiators cannot leak carbon monoxide, it’s a waste product of inefficiently burning fuel. Carbon Monoxide is more likely to leak from around your boiler and/or flue.

Gas leak

Unlike Carbon Monoxide, the smell of mains gas is quite distinct (rotten eggs) and you will notice it in your property. Natural gas is odorless but a harmless chemical is added in to allow it to be identifiable.

If you don’t trust your nose to do the job then you can pick up a combustible gas detector for around £50 to confirm the presence of gas. This can help to determine where in your home the gas smell is coming from, or whether the smell is coming from a neighboring property or flat.

Though natural gas isn’t poisonous like Carbon Monoxide, it is highly flammable.

What should I do if I smell gas?

If you smell gas from your boiler, you should immediately report a suspected gas leak to the National Gas Emergency Helpline by calling 0800 111 999.

  • While you wait for a Gas Safe engineer you should also follow the advice below:
  • Open all doors and windows in your property
  • Switch off the gas to the property at the gas mains
  • No natural flames in case it ignites the gas (hobs, lighters, candles)
  • Don’t turn on electrical switches or appliances

How much does a gas leak callout cost?

If you call the National Gas Emergency Helpline on the number above then a Gas Safe engineer will be out to you within the hour to make your home safe and isolate the gas leak. There is no charge for this service but you will need to get an engineer to fix whatever the issue causing the gas leak is.

What causes gas leaks?

There are a few common causes of gas leaks in the home. Poorly fitted appliances, or appliances that have been moved, breaking the gas seal, are one of the more common causes.

When moving into a property you can request the Gas Safe certificate, if it’s a rented accommodation your landlord will be legally required to supply these documents to you.

Another cause of gas leaks is corroded pipes. Look for rusted or green discoloration on gas pipework, if you spot any then get a Gas Safe engineer to take a look.

Gas leaks are far rarer than they used to be with old-fashioned back boilers and the additional safety features present in modern boilers. It’s worth getting your boiler serviced annually to ensure any issues are picked up early.

Annual boiler service

In the same way that a car has to pass an MOT to keep it roadworthy, you can think of an annual boiler service in the same way – it’s a safety check to make sure it’s all working properly and by getting it checked regularly you can catch small issues before they turn into major issues.

This could save you money on costly repairs or even replacement but it also gives you peace of mind that your boiler is safe. After all, your boiler burns fuel every day, this has the potential to be dangerous so why would you take a chance?

There are many benefits to getting your boiler serviced annually, don’t take a chance and get it checked out by a professional.

Gas safety certificate

A Gas Safety Certificate is created by a Gas Safe engineer whenever a boiler or heating appliance is installed in a domestic or commercial property.

Building regulations require that any local authority is informed when a new heating appliance is installed.

A Gas Safety certificate is different from a Gas Safety Record, the certificate is to certify that your heating appliance was installed by a Gas Safe engineer, and the local authority was notified. A Gas Safety record is on an ongoing record of the boiler which is updated each time it’s serviced.

A Gas Safety Certificate is a legal requirement whereas a Gas Safety Record is not, with the exception of landlords, who must keep up-to-date Gas Safety Records available for tenants under the Gas Safety Regulations of 1998.

High/low boiler pressure

If you have high or low boiler pressure it’s related to a fault on your boiler or more commonly a leak in the central heating system but it’s not normally a safety issue as your boiler will lockout if the pressure gets too high or low.

We’ve covered boiler pressure issues in a previous article, including causes and how to fix them. Many issues with low pressure can be sorted yourself without the need for a Gas Safe engineer but for anything that requires taking the cover off the boiler, you’re required to call an engineer out.

Water leak

If you see any water leaking from your boiler it’s unlikely to represent a health risk but your first step should be to turn off the boiler and the power supply going to it to prevent the water short-circuiting the electrics.

The risk of damage is to your home if the leak is continuous. If the water is leaking from the pipes underneath your boiler it might be a weak joint that can be sorted out with a bit of soldering but if the water is coming from inside the boiler casing then it’s likely that an internal part has failed and you will need to seek the help of a Gas Safe engineer.

Can’t turn your boiler on

There are a number of reasons why your boiler might not be turning on or why it might keep turning itself off. Usually, if your boiler won’t turn on it’s because it’s locking out as a safety precaution.

Have a look at the LCD display on the front of your boiler and refer to the boiler manual (usually located on or near the boiler) to see what the error code means.

It could be something simple like low pressure or a frozen condensate pipe that you can fix yourself or it could be something more serious like a cracked heat exchanger.

Boiler making a lot of noise

If your boiler is making a banging, whistling, or gurgling noise, don’t try and communicate with it yourself, get a Gas Safe engineer who has been trained in the ancient art of boiler whispering to diagnose the issue.

It could be that some air has got into your system, the water pressure is too low, your pump is on the way out or your boiler is ‘kettling’. Kettling isn’t a process of retraining your boiler is taking because it fancies a career change, kettling is caused by a build-up of limescale or sludge on your boiler’s heat exchanger. This build-up restricts the flow of water in the heat exchanger, overheating the water, causing a noise like that of a boiling kettle to occur. 

Kettling has the potential to be dangerous and should be checked out by a Gas Safe engineer, your boiler won’t explode but nothing good will happen if you leave it and the noise is quite irritating.

Pilot light flame

Your pilot light flame should always be a clear blue colour, if you notice it changing to yellow or having any trace of yellow or orange in the flame, it could be a sign of poor combustion.

Poor combustion means that not only are you wasting energy as your boiler isn’t burning efficiently but it could also be producing Carbon Monoxide, so it’s important to get it looked at quickly.

Other signs to look for as well as a yellow pilot light is soot or scorch marks around the boiler itself or more condensation than normal on your windows.

If your boiler is displaying any of these issues and the boiler warranty/guarantee has expired then you might want to get a quote on a new boiler from WarmZilla, in many cases, when a boiler starts experiencing serious issues the money is better spent putting it toward a new boiler than getting the old boiler fixed.

If you want to learn more about whether to repair or replace your boiler then we’ve already covered it in a previous article.

Hopefully, this article will have helped you to identify your boiler issue and determine whether the problem is serious or not. If ever you aren’t sure whether a problem with your boiler needs attention then we recommend that you don’t take any chances and call in a Gas Safe engineer to take a look.

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