Victorians in renovated homes urged to have open flued gas space heaters serviced

Published:
Sunday, 23 April 2023 at 11:27 pm

Energy Safe Victoria is urging Victorians using open flued gas space heaters, particularly those in recently renovated homes, to have them serviced to reduce the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Energy Safe’s Be Sure campaign, which calls for open flued gas space heaters to be serviced every two years, was launched following the 2017 death of Sonia Sofianopoulos who suffered carbon monoxide poisoning in her home. 

Servicing should be carried out by a Type A licensed gasfitters. Check that they are accredited before starting work. The energy safety regulator is using this year’s Be Sure campaign to highlight the particular risk to Victorians operating open flued gas space heaters in properties that have recently been renovated or weather sealed.

Open flued gas space heaters are considered old technology, designed to draw air from the within the home for combustion. However, units that are not serviced or are faulty can cause carbon monoxide leakage created by a negative pressure environment, which occurs when operating bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans with little-to-no ventilation.

Energy Safe has developed a video explaining negative pressure.

New and renovated homes are generally better insulated with reduced ventilation, which can impact the safe operation of open flue gas space heaters, potentially causing carbon monoxide to leakage into a home.

In July 2022, Energy Safe also banned the sale and supply of new open flued gas space heaters that do not meet new Australian Standards. This Standard requires newly manufactured open flued gas space heaters shut down within 15 minutes if the appliance is operating in a negative pressure environment, which could lead to carbon monoxide spillage.

Energy Safe CEO Leanne Hughson said the carbon monoxide leakage via open flued gas space heaters posed a serious risk to people, especially in situations where there was little ventilation. Ms Hughson said the decision to ban the sale and supply of heaters was an important step, however those already using these appliances needed to ensure they remained safe.

“Energy efficiency is important both for the environment and for household budgets. However, open flued gas space heaters were never designed to operate safely without ventilation,” Ms Hughson said. “If you live in a renovated or weather sealed house with an open flued gas space heater, please get a qualified gasfitter to ensure carbon monoxide.

“Get your heater serviced at least once every two years. If you can, think about replacing your heater. There are many different options on the market that are more efficient and cost less to run including room sealed gas space heaters.”

Tips to ensure open flue gas spaces heaters operate safely:

  • Service the heater every two years by serviced by a licenced gasfitter at least once every two years
  • Don’t turn on exhaust fans when operating your heater
  • Don’t leave open flued gas space heaters on all night
  • Purchase a carbon monoxide monitor and place it near your heater
  • Leave open a window so there is some airflow
  • If possible, replace open flue gas space heater with safer alternatives, including room sealed gas space heaters.

Energy Safe reminds consumers of a number of recalls and safety alerts related to some open flued gas space heaters. For more information on affected models see here. Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms can be similar to the flu, including headaches, tiredness and nausea. Seek medical advice if concerned, particularly if symptoms improve when outside.

For more information visit esv.vic.gov.au/campaigns/carbon-monoxide.

Media contact: Adrian Bernecich 0437 729 194

adrian.bernecich@energysafe.vic.gov.au

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