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Detecting and preventing gas leaks

By Rachel England Wednesday 19 March 2014

Gas Leaks

Gas leaks are serious. According to the Gas Safe Register (GSR), over the last three years one in six homes inspected by the organisation contained an unsafe appliance, and 31 deaths and more than 1,000 injuries have occurred because of a gas-related incident. Here’s how to detect and prevent gas leaks in your home.

What causes a gas leak?

Gas leaks are often the result of badly-maintained, faulty or poorly-fitted appliances such as cookers and boilers, where gas escapes from broken seals and hoses, and into your home. As such, you should always be wary of second-hand appliances, or existing appliances in a house you’ve moved into (if you're renting, your landlord should provide you with a gas safety certificate that confirms all gas-based appliances have been safety checked).

What happens if a gas leak isn’t fixed?

If left unchecked, gas leaks can have very serious consequences, including carbon monoxide poisoning, fire and explosions.

How are gas leaks detected?

Gas leaks are usually identified by the strong smell of gas in your home, but there are other signs to watch out for, too.

  • If you’re feeling sick, dizzy or lightheaded for no apparent reason, and the symptoms dissipate when you go outside. This could indicate carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • If your boiler’s pilot light keeps blowing out.
  • If the pilot light or gas rings on your cooker are orange or yellow, rather than crisp blue.
  • If there’s any soot or scorched areas on the exterior of your appliances.
  • If there’s more condensation than usual on your windows.

What should you do if you think there’s a leak?

If you believe there’s a gas leak in your home, take the following action:

1 – Turn off the gas supply at your gas meter (it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the location of this before an emergency!)

2 – Open windows and doors to allow fresh air in and gas fumes out.

3 – Do not: smoke, use any electrical equipment (including mobile phones) or flick light switches inside your home. Doing so could create a spark which could lead to an explosion.

4 – Call the National Gas emergency number: 0800 111 999. It’s free to call and available 24 hours a day. They’ll send someone to your property to help locate and stop the leak, so you’ll need to be available to let them in and help them as required.

How can gas leaks be prevented?

When it comes to gas leaks, think prevention, not cure! There are lots of gadgets and gizmos on the market that make detecting a leak much easier, such as carbon monoxide alarms, but it’s much better to take steps to prevent a leak in the first place. You can do this by:

  • Ensuring all appliances are fitted by an accredited Gas Safe Register engineer
  • Checking appliances regularly for wear and tear, and ensuring they’re serviced regularly
  • Ensuring gas safety documents (for rented properties) are up-to-date
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