Brits heating habits could put millions at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning
For Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week, experts warn of the dangers and encourage people to get clued up on gas safety basics
An estimated 4.5 million Brits1 – almost one in ten (7%) – are potentially at risk from heating just one room in their homes this winter with a gas fire. As worryingly the latest Gas Safe inspection data shows that 1 in 2 gas fires in UK homes were found to be unsafe2, and a poorly ventilated gas fire often being a common culprit for carbon monoxide poisoning.
This is according to new research by Gas Safe Register, the UK’s official registration body for gas engineers and gas businesses. Of those who own a gas fire, over half (53%) intend to have doors and windows shut all day over the coming months, so to further help keep their homes warm. For Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week, gas safe experts are alerting Brits to the dangers of the lack of ventilation and air flow when it comes to heating one room of their homes with a gas fire in this manner.
An improperly maintained or ventilated gas fire can lead to incomplete combustion, producing carbon monoxide, which in some cases may enter the property causing this toxic gas to linger – putting those in close proximity at risk. Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning can be deadly and is especially dangerous as it cannot be seen, tasted or smelt, and some symptoms mimic the effects of a virus and even a bad hangover.
Kirsty Payne, 53, from the Cotswolds, experienced a carbon monoxide leak that could have been fatal for both herself and her husband. Kirsty says: “I know first-hand just how crucial it is to be clued up with gas safety basics, as ultimately, it could really help to save lives. I’d experienced an incident with a CO leak at my home a few years ago – leaving the house immediately after starting to feel extremely unwell, and with my CO detector alarm going off. I’d called a Gas Safe registered engineer right away, and the engineer reported CO levels in the property were shockingly high. Had I stayed in the house any longer, it’s likely I would’ve passed out from CO poisoning.
“That’s why I’m working with the Gas Safe Register to urge people to get their gas appliances safety checked this winter and to get clued up with the gas safety basics – CO poisoning can be deadly, and it's much better to be gas safe than sorry.”
Rob Denman, Head of Professional and Field Services at Gas Safe Register, adds: “The research we’ve commissioned has highlighted some potentially worrying insights. Whilst it’s completely understandable that people will be trying to find ways to save money this winter, it’s so important that you’re not putting your own or others health at risk.
“With a majority of people using gas fires intending to have their doors and windows shut all day, we are urging the nation to ‘let it flow’ over the winter months. All gas-burning appliances need an appropriate supply of fresh air to burn properly, as all produce a residue of carbon monoxide, a highly poisonous gas. If the air supply to the gas fire is restricted, the level of carbon monoxide produced rises sharply – which is why ventilation is so important.
“Carbon monoxide can be extremely dangerous, even deadly, especially as it’s an odourless, colourless, tasteless gas. With it being Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week, we’re urging households to ensure that gas appliances, including gas fires, are safety checked annually by a qualified Gas Safe engineer through the Gas Safe Register – and to ensure all rooms with gas appliances are properly ventilated, even when heating just one room. If you do one thing this winter, check the Gas Safe Register to find a local engineer who can help.”
Gas Safe Register’s gas safety tips for this winter:
- Ensure gas appliances, including gas fires, are safety checked and serviced annually: The most important thing you can do to minimise the risk of CO poisoning is to ensure your gas appliances are safety checked, at least annually, by a Gas Safe registered engineer. You can find and check an engineer at www.gassaferegister.co.uk or call 0800 408 5500.
- Make sure all rooms with gas appliances are properly ventilated: Ensure that any rooms that contain a gas fire or stove are well ventilated, and that there are no blockages to ventilation.
- Fit an audible carbon monoxide alarm: This will alert you if there is carbon monoxide in your home, as you cannot see, smell or taste CO.
- Know the signs of a potential carbon monoxide leak: Lazy yellow flames rather than a crisp blue flame, hissing or whistling sounds, and dust, dirt, or other debris at the fireplace base – could all be signs of CO in your home.
- Know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning: Carbon monoxide poisoning can be hard to identify, as symptoms such as headaches and nausea can easily be mistaken for other illnesses such as flu, colds or even a hangover. If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, get some fresh air and leave the house as quickly as possible. See a doctor and if you are very unwell call 999 for an ambulance. The National Gas Emergency Helpline is also available 24/7 on 0800 111 999.
- Locate your Emergency Control Valve (ECV): In the eventuality you do suspect there is a gas leak or carbon monoxide in your home, find out where your gas Emergency Control Valve (ECV) is located, so you can switch the gas supply off in an emergency.
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1 Research conducted by Opinion Matters on behalf of Gas Safe Register. Opinion Matters surveyed 2,006 UK residents (aged 16+) – nationally representative across age, gender and region – between 3rd and 5th October 2022, of which 592 have a gas fire in their home. Opinion Matters abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.
- 78% of respondents answered they plan to only use the room that is heated using a gas fire this coming winter, which was multiplied by the UK population of 67 million, this estimates 4.5 million Brits plan to do this.
2 Findings based on 19,498 UK homes inspected by Gas Safe Register between 1st April 2022 and 31st March 2023. One in two were found to have an unsafe or faulty gas fire.
About Gas Safe Register
Gas Safe Register is the official list of gas businesses who are registered to work safely and legally on boilers, cookers, fires and all other gas appliances. By law all gas engineers must be on the Gas Safe Register. To find a Gas Safe registered engineer visit GasSafeRegister.co.uk or call 0800 408 5500.
Gas Safe Register replaced CORGI as the gas registration body in 2009.