A faulty boiler can be a serious hazard. Any heating system, which runs on wood or fossil fuels such as gas, coal or oil, is at risk of giving off carbon monoxide if it is not serviced regularly or if it becomes faulty.
Carbon monoxide, otherwise known as the silent killer, causes an estimated one death each week in the UK due to lack of maintenance on boilers, central heating systems and flues. The gas can be extremely difficult to detect, as it is tasteless and odourless. If inhaled, it causes breathing difficulties and quickly enters the bloodstream. It takes only a short amount of time for carbon monoxide inhalation to cause coma or even death.
There are several signals to watch out for which can mean your boiler is faulty and at risk of giving off carbon monoxide. These include:
- Flames burning orange or yellow instead of blue.
- Soot or stains on or above fuel burning appliances.
- Wood or coal fires that burn slowly or often go out.
- A difficult to light fire.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include drowsiness, tiredness, headaches, nausea, dizziness or chest pains.
Always make sure there is sufficient ventilation in the room in which the fuel-burning appliance is located and make regular checks to prevent blocked or leaking flues and chimneys. Always ensure chimneys and flues are swept regularly.
Carbon monoxide detectors, which work in a similar way to smoke detectors, can be fitted in your home. It is important to be aware however, that these are only warning devices and should not be used instead of regular maintenance and servicing. If you do purchase one for your home make sure it complies with British Standard BS7860. For more information read our guide to carbon monoxide detectors.
If you are a homeowner it is your own responsibility to ensure your boiler and heating system is kept well maintained and in good working order. However, arranging for an engineer to visit can be daunting, as research has shown many workmen provide work of substandard quality, which can be a danger in itself.
If you are a tenant living in rented accommodation, it is the responsibility of your landlord to ensure flues and appliances are well maintained and undergo a yearly safety check.