With shorter days and cooler nights, it’s time to not only turn on the heater, but also make sure it’s safe. Poorly maintained gas heaters can omit potentially deadly carbon monoxide gas and unlike the smell of scorched summer dust on radiator bars, it’s odourless and colourless.
“Carbon monoxide poisoning or the ‘silent killer’ can be caused by a lack of servicing or a blocked flue or chimney,” said Joseph Genco, the Victorian Building Authority’s (VBA) Director of Technical and Regulation. The VBA and co-building industry regulator Energy Safe Victoria (ESV) recommend gas heaters are serviced and checked every two years, while solid fuel heaters should be given the once‐over every year. Inspections and maintenance to both types of heaters need to be performed by a licenced and registered plumber.
“Heating systems, particularly older units, can be very dangerous if not handled correctly, so householders need to get an appropriately qualified practitioner with the correct equipment to test for carbon monoxide spillage,” said Mr Genco. It’s illegal for an unlicensed or unregistered person to service or repair their own gas heaters. “Heater manufacturers and appropriately licensed or registered practitioners conduct installation and servicing so warranties can be honoured.”
“Wood heaters that haven’t been cleaned and maintained properly, present the added risk of flue/chimney fires with the possibility of combustible materials such as built up creosote (wood tar), twigs and other debris catching fire,” said Mr Genco.
Brad Stevenson from heating supply specialists Splash and Burn in Bendigo recommends you replace any cracked glass and damaged bricks, check the glass and door seals are in good condition, make sure the baffle plate is free of debris and give the fan a vacuum at the start of the season every year.
- Consumers should always ask to see their plumber’s licence or registration card, which shows the classes of plumbing work the practitioner is registered or licensed to do. Check they’re registered or licensed at the ‘Find a Practitioner’ tab at vba.vic.gov.au
- Where the value of the work is in excess of $750, including parts and labour, the plumber must issue the consumer with a compliance certificate.
- Electrical work related to heaters requires an electrician licensed by ESV. Check the electrician’s licence and insist that an ESV Certificate of Electrical Safety is issued when work is complete.
- The ESV website (esv.vic.gov.au) has information on carbon monoxide poisoning and allows consumers to check the accreditation of licensed electrical inspectors and registered electrical contractors.