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Old appliances can be defective and dangerous

Around 50 people in the UK die every year, with hundreds more made seriously ill, due to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from poorly installed, badly maintained or defective gas appliances. Hardly a week goes by without another report of a homeowner or tenant in rented accommodation killed or made seriously ill by fumes from an old or poorly maintained gas cooker or boiler. It's not just lives at stake – older boilers with their poor efficiency and high carbon emissions also harm the environment.

Carbon monoxide is a silent killer and failure to properly maintain gas appliances can put you and your family at risk, so it is essential that gas appliances are maintained in good condition and subjected to annual maintenance and safety checks by a qualified Gas Safe registered engineer.

Research indicates that nearly a quarter of UK homes have one or more defective gas appliance and almost 1 in 10 are judged to be at risk of producing dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. But how do you know if you are vulnerable to this silent killer? Well, even though you cannot see or smell carbon monoxide there are vital signs to look out for such as sooting and staining on or around your gas boiler or appliance, or excessive condensation in the room where an appliance is installed. Another key indicator is a lazy, yellow-orange gas flame instead of blue.

Fitting a European Standard certified audible carbon monoxide alarm is a vital second line of defence after having your appliances safety checked. It is essential that your alarm is marked with the EN50291 safety standard and with the CE mark.

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Why you should get your boiler regularly serviced

Heating our homes and our water is the biggest energy cost households face each month, yet many homeowners do not realise the importance of having their whole heating system regularly serviced.

Having your boiler checked and your heating system inspected will not only save money and energy; it could potentially avoid a terrible tragedy.

Gas is the most commonly used fuel for home heating systems across the country and although in principle it is completely safe, lack of routine maintenance means too many people still needlessly die every year from preventable gas-related carbon monoxide poisoning.

If your boiler is more than ten years old or has been infrequently serviced in the past, you really should contact a Gas Safe registered engineer to have your heating system inspected.

Although safety is of course the first priority it is also false economy to forgo what should be an annual service and maintenance check – a well maintained boiler burns up to 10% less fuel than a poorly maintained one – and with high energy prices that could cover the cost of the service.

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Important safety advice for tenants

Landlords have a legal duty to ensure that gas appliances and gas fittings installed in their rented accommodation are maintained in a safe condition. The law requires that landlords ensure that gas appliances are checked for safety within 12 month intervals. The annual safety check must be undertaken by a qualified Gas Safe registered engineer who will then issue the landlord with a Gas Safety Certificate.

If you are living in rented accommodation your landlord must issue you with a copy of the Gas Safety Certificate following the annual safety check and you should not hesitate to contact the Health & Safety Executive if the landlord does not provide this. The Gas Safety Certificate must also be provided to tenants when moving in to a new property.

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Only use competent and registered installers

Regrettably, there are still thousands of non-registered, bogus gas fitters carrying out gas work for homeowners, frequently doing sub-standard work that not only represents poor value for money but can also put homeowners' lives at risks – at least 50 people die and hundreds more are made seriously ill from preventable carbon monoxide poisoning, usually caused by gas appliances or flues which have not been properly installed.

For any work in your home involving gas appliances, always choose a Gas Safe registered engineer – look for the Gas Safe Register logo before you employ a gas engineer at home and always ask to see the engineer's official Gas Safe Register photo ID card.

For oil fired appliances only use an OFTEC registered installer. The easy way to find competent, registered installers is to use the search facility (Find a Heating Engineer) on this website.

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