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Staying safe with gas

By Maxwell Cooper

Two thirds of UK homes use gas, so we've put together this guide to help you stay safe when using your gas appliances.

A flame wearing glasses and reading the gas safety guide

What is gas used for in our homes?

About two thirds of UK homes use gas for heating and cooking. It’s the second most common fuel in the UK, after electricity. Gas is usually created from fossil fuels which harm our planet, so at Bulb, we offset 100% of our gas.

What are the risks of using gas in our homes?

It’s important to keep a close eye on the gas appliances in your home. Because if an appliance is broken, it can cause a gas leak. While this gas isn’t poisonous, it can lead to a fire or an explosion if it's not dealt with quickly.

The gas we use in our homes is colourless, and it doesn’t smell. So it has an artificial smell added to it, which can help you notice a gas leak. If you think you can smell gas, call your regional gas emergency number, and they'll give you advice on staying safe, and what to do next.

When a gas appliance, like your hob or boiler, isn’t installed or maintained correctly, it can stop burning gas properly. When gas isn’t burned fully, another gas called carbon monoxide is produced. Carbon monoxide has no smell or taste, and can be fatal if you’re exposed to a large amount.

What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning aren’t always obvious, especially if you’ve only been exposed to a small amount.

A tension-type headache is the most common symptom. It usually affects both sides of the head. Your neck muscles may also feel tight, and you might feel pressure behind your eyes.

Other symptoms include:

  • dizziness

  • feeling and being sick

  • tiredness and confusion

  • stomach pain

  • shortness of breath and difficulty breathing

The NHS have more advice on how to spot carbon monoxide poisoning.

What to do if you suspect Carbon Monoxide poisoning

If you think you’ve been exposed to carbon monoxide, leave your property and get medical advice from your doctor. If you think you’ve been exposed to a lot of carbon monoxide, go to your local A&E immediately.

An illustrated kitemark which you should look for when purchasing a carbon monoxide alarm.

Carbon monoxide detectors for your home

For your safety, you should have a carbon monoxide detector in every room with a gas appliance. Which?, published by the Consumers’ Association, has written a good guide on how to choose a carbon monoxide detector.

When you’re choosing a carbon monoxide alarm, check for a British or European approval mark, such as a kitemark. Here’s an illustration of a kitemark to give you an idea of what you’re looking for.

Who is responsible for installing carbon monoxide detectors?

If you own your property, you're responsible for installing carbon monoxide detectors. And you should test them every 3 months to make sure they’re still working.

If you’re renting, you can ask your landlord to install them for you, although they’re not legally required to. If you already have them, it’s your responsibility to test them every 3 months, so pop a note in your calendar.

How to tell a gas appliance isn’t working safely

An illustrated gas flame looking a little frightened.

Some signs that your gas appliances aren’t working correctly are:

  • seeing a yellow or orange flame instead of a crisp blue flame, on your hob

  • scorched areas or soot on your gas appliances, for example, your gas fire

  • pilot lights frequently blowing out

What to do if a gas appliance isn’t working safely

An illustrated emergency control valve. You'll find this on the pipes leading from your gas meter.

If you know which appliance is broken, turn it off. If you don’t, you can turn off all gas appliances using the ‘emergency control valve’. You’ll find this on the pipes leading into your gas meter.

Next, open all the windows and doors to let the gas escape, and get some fresh air in. Tell anyone else in the house they need to leave. Avoid using electrical switches like your lights and plug sockets, and wait until you’re outside to use your mobile phone.

Once you’re outside the property, call the National Gas Emergency Number on 0800 111 999. If someone is experiencing symptoms that match carbon monoxide poisoning, call 999 immediately.

How can I book a gas safety check?

If you own your property, it's a good idea to book a gas safety check every year. The Gas Safe Register has a list of qualified engineers, and you’ll need to contact an engineer to get the check booked in. The cost of a gas safety check starts at £45, and increases depending on how many appliances you have.

If you rent your home, your landlord or letting agent is responsible for checking your gas appliances once a year.

And if you’re with Bulb and on our Priority Services Register, you might be able to get a check free of charge. Find out if you’re eligible and apply for free gas safety checks.

What happens during a gas safety check?

An engineer checking a gas meter.

A gas engineer will check that all the carbon monoxide alarms, and any ventilation in your home are working properly.

They’ll also check your gas appliances are working safely. This includes making sure each appliance is suitable for the room it’s in, and there’s a permanent air supply.

If an appliance is unsafe, your gas engineer will tell you if it needs replacing. Expensive appliances, like an oven, can be bought using a payment plan.

Your gas engineer can also test your pipes for any leaks. But you need to ask for this when you’re booking your gas safety check.