Carbon monoxide poisoning from faulty gas appliances has killed nine Victorians in the past decade. The main causes of these deaths have been faulty or badly maintained gas heaters. It has become known as the silent killer, as carbon monoxide gas can’t be seen and does not have a smell.
Energy Safe Victoria (ESV) is the independent technical regulator responsible for gas safety in Victoria. ESV recommends that at least every two years all gas appliances should be serviced by a licenced or registered gas fitter.
According to ESV the following gas appliances may produce carbon monoxide gas: gas heaters, gas water-heaters, stovetops and ovens, gas-powered refrigerators, decorative log fires and barbeques.
More particularly ESV is urging all Victorians with gas heaters built into brick chimneys to get them tested for carbon monoxide spillage. This includes space and room heaters and decorative log fires.
While brick chimneys are designed to safely remove combustion products from the home, they can deteriorate over time. Any holes in the mortar or brickwork could stop the chimney drawing properly. If the fault is bad enough, it may create backpressure that could push toxic carbon monoxide into living areas.
In an effort to create awareness about this issue ESV have initiated a series of media campaigns highlighting the importance of regular gas appliance servicing. Unfortunately the message does not seem to be getting through to property owners. I have spoken to several service contractors who report that, in their estimation, less than 20% of gas appliances in Victoria are serviced regularly.
It is my view that media campaigns alone will not result in any significant increase in gas appliance servicing. Unfortunately many property owners regard regular gas appliance maintenance as an expense that it not a priority. This is especially the case in the current tougher economic climate.
The state government should offer rebates to property owners to assist in reducing the cost burden of regular gas appliance maintenance. This would go a long way to greatly increase the current low levels of gas appliance maintenance.