Beware carbon monoxide – A silent killer
Do you use a gas heater?
Gas heaters can be deadly if not maintained properly.
If faulty or poorly maintained, they can leak carbon monoxide (CO). CO is a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas resulting from the incomplete combustion of hydrocarbon fuels.
Carbon monoxide spillage can be lethal. It can cause death or chronic illness. CO poisoning can happen in any home or building with gas heating appliances, including newer ones.
Dirty, old and unserviced heaters operating in a sealed environment will increase the risk of CO spillage and smaller, poorly ventilated dwellings are at a greater risk.
Symptoms of CO poisoning
The dangers of CO poisoning can be hard to diagnose with symptoms similar to other ailments often seen during the cooler months. Everyone in the dwelling coming down with the same symptoms – the young, old and vulnerable can be most affected by carbon monoxide. This includes pets.
Signs and symptoms can include:
Heating your home with gas
All types of gas heaters should be serviced at least once every two years by a registered gasfitter.
Before you book — ask the gasfitter if they have the right equipment to test for carbon monoxide leakage. Only use a registered or licensed gas fitter who has completed the Master Plumbers CO training course.
Plumbers and gasfitters can be found by searching online or via the VBA’s website.
Open-flued gas heaters
Open-flued heaters are the most vulnerable type of heaters. This includes all central heating units, wall units, space heaters and gas log fires.
If you have an open-flued gas heater, it is imperative you have it serviced as soon as possible and at the next opportunity, replace it with a closed or room sealed gas heater or split system.
If you are not sure if your heater is open-flued, contact the manufacturer or ask the gasfitter when they service your heater.
ESV has released safety alerts for the following gas heaters. Follow the links for more information on each alert.
People with these gas heaters in their homes need to contact the supplier and get them checked by a qualified gasfitter immediately.
Tips for heating with gas
- Get your heater serviced once every two years.
- Only use a qualified gasfitter — ensure they have the right registration and equipment to test for CO.
- Don’t leave the heater on overnight.
- Don’t operate exhaust fans at the same time as the heater — they can create a ‘negative pressure‘ effect.
- Consider back-up measures — carbon monoxide alarms can be a useful, but should not be considered a substitute for the proper installation and maintenance of gas heating appliances.
- Ensure you have adequate ventilation.
- Consider replacing old appliances — avoid buying second-hand appliances.
The Chase and Tyler Foundation
In May 2010, Vanessa and Scott Robinson lost their two boys Chase and Tyler aged 8 and 10, as a result of CO poisoning in their Mooroopna home.
Since their tragic deaths, mother Vanessa Robinson set up The Chase and Tyler Foundation to raise awareness of the risk of CO poisoning from faulty gas heaters.
Vanessa recently sat with ESV to discuss the dangers around carbon monoxide, what you can do to avoid the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and working with Energy Safe Victoria.
Short clips of Vanessa’s video are also available to share on our YouTube channel.
Campaign: A Silent Killer – Cold Feet
Our ‘Cold Feet’ campaign is designed to help Victorians understand the effects of, and avoid carbon monoxide poisoning from their gas heaters.