A gas fire is a lovely way to warm yourself through the colder months. It’s often more economical than heating your whole house, and it adds a merry ambience to a room’s environment. Every day millions of people use gas fires happily and safely, without incident.
However, there are some potential risks to having any fireplace in your home, and some are specific to gas fires. It’s good to be aware of them just in case. This guide gives an overview of the potential dangers of gas fires, how to prevent them, and what to do if they arise.
Different Gas Fires And Their Suitability For Your Home
Firstly, if you’re purchasing a new gas fire, you should consider the best option for your home. There are four main types of a gas fire – conventional flue gas fires, balanced flue gas fires, flueless gas fires and LPG gas fires. Flue gas fires are ventilated through a connected chimney or metal pipe, exhausting harmful gases outside your home.
A Gas Safe engineer will be able to advise you on which gas fire type will be most suitable for your space, and whether additional ventilation may be required.
Conventional Flue Gas Fires
Conventional Flue Gas Fires require a connection to a chimney or flue to function properly and safely. Additional ventilation may be necessary for some. They come in either open-fronted or glass-fronted styles.
These gas fires work by drawing in air from their surroundings and combining it with air running through the chimney or flue, helping to remove unwanted products and gases which are expelled through the chimney/flue.
Balanced Flue Gas Fires
A concentric flue at the rear or on top of a balanced flue gas fire draws outside air for combustion, expelling products of combustion and gases through the flue. Unlike conventional flue gas fires, they are only ever room-sealed and glass fronted.
These gas fires do not deplete oxygen levels due to the way they operate.
Flueless Gas Fires
Fires without a flue require no chimney or pipe but do need additional ventilation. Because of the way they burn, they can safely exhaust gases into the room. Alternatively, they will have converters built in that remove harmful emissions.
For a flueless gas stove, the size of the room and openable windows need to be considered. This should be outlined in the manufacturer’s guidelines.
LPG Gas Fires
Some gas fires are not connected to the main gas supply for natural gas. Such fires may make use of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) instead, also known as propane or butane.
However, not all gas fires will be compatible with LPG, as LPG and natural gas have different properties and burner systems required. An incompatibility can cause a serious safety risk, so always check with a registered Gas Safe engineer.
Use Gas Safe Engineers For Installation, Servicing, And Maintenance
Previously the Council for Registered Gas Installers (CORGI), as of 2009 the Gas Safe register is the only official gas register in the UK. By law, all gas installation and maintenance services must be Gas Safe Registered.
The register contains a list of all engineers legally allowed to install or maintain gas appliances such as cookers, boilers and fires. If an engineer is not on the register or cannot present Gas Safe identification, do not allow them to carry out work on your home.
Likewise, never carry out work on gas appliances yourself. It should only ever be attempted by a qualified and registered engineer.
Get A Gas Safety Certificate
When a gas appliance has been deemed safe to use by a Gas Safe engineer, it should also be issued a Gas Safe certificate. A Gas Safe certificate is not only important for peace of mind with safety assurance, but for insurance purposes. If a gas appliance has any issues but is found not to have a Gas Safe certificate, insurance could be void and you won’t be able to claim.
After the installation or service of a gas fire by a registered engineer, ask for documents proving the validity and safety of the work.
Have Regular Servicing
Having an annual gas fire service is a good idea for extra peace of mind. You can arrange for a Gas Safe engineer to inspect your set-up by taking apart the gas fire and inspecting all its components, ensuring they are functional and safe. They will also check the fire is burning correctly overall and inspect the chimney to check that it is clear and safely exhausting emissions.
Regular checkups help to identify any small problems, which you can then have fixed at the time, before they cause any more serious problems or deteriorate, costing you more money to repair. The service engineer will be able to provide a quote for the necessary repairs or maintenance.
Check Pre-Existing Gas Fireplaces
When moving into a house with a gas fire already installed, it’s easy to assume that it’s safe. Always check to be sure. Ask previous owners for a Gas Safe certificate, or have the fire inspected yourself by a Gas Safe engineer. Don’t assume a fire is safe because previous owners have been using it or it simply looks so.
Use Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Carbon monoxide is a deadly gas known as the silent killer, as it is both colourless and odourless. An important gas-safe accessory, carbon monoxide detectors sound an alarm if unsafe levels of carbon monoxide are present. They are inexpensive and save lives, so there’s no reason to do without them.
Should your carbon monoxide alarm sound, leave the premises and call 0800 111 999 immediately for the Gas Emergency Helpline.
Signs Of A Carbon Monoxide Leak
If there is a major fault with your gas fire or it hasn’t been installed correctly, it could potentially let harmful levels of carbon monoxide gas into your home. In case you don’t have a carbon monoxide detector, or there is a fault or depleted battery in your detector, you should be aware of dangerous carbon monoxide signs and symptoms.
If gas appliance flames burn orange or yellow where they should be blue, this can signify a carbon monoxide leak. Likewise, if there is visible soot, scorching or other discolouration around a gas appliance.
In people, symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include nausea, lethargy, headaches and dizziness. Carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal so if you suspect a carbon monoxide leak and experience any of these symptoms, call for help immediately. The sooner you receive medical attention the better.
Give Your Fire Space
The ‘three-foot rule’ is a good guideline for using any indoor fireplace. Don’t have any furniture or flammable objects placed within three feet of your fire. Fireplace tools such as pokers and shovels, or other non-flammable objects are okay.
Don’t Leave A Fire Burning Unsupervised/Overnight
It is unsafe to leave a fire unattended for long periods of time, especially overnight. It only takes one stray spark or ember to cause a larger problem. Although rare, small unattended issues can quickly become severe.
With gas fires, it is particularly important not to burn overnight due to the elevated risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, no matter how small. Always turn your fireplace off before going to bed.
Considerations For Children
Never leave young children unsupervised with a lit gas fire, and teach children gas fire safety. The glass on gas fire windows can get incredibly hot within minutes of being lit, enough to cause burns through just a passing touch.
It’s worth considering a lockable, protective screen around a fireplace in a home with young children.
If a gas fireplace uses a chimney, though it will need checking less often than a wood or coal fire, it is still a good idea to have the chimney inspected and cleaned annually. Over time, chimneys can become clogged with soot, tar, or bird nests. If clogged, there is a significant risk of a chimney fire.
Have your chimney cleaned by a professional chimney sweep once a year to keep it clear and safe.
If you’re in need of expert gas fire installation, gas fire services or repair, get in touch with Fireplace Superstore today.