Is my boiler going to kill me?

Usually you only think about your boiler when it breaks in the middle of winter. But checking your boiler’s safety can actually save your life. We talk you through carbon monoxide poisoning, gas leaks, and what your landlord's responsibility is.

gas hob

Gas leaks can be fatal.

How could a boiler kill me then?

The quick answer: carbon monoxide (CO) is a gas that you can’t smell, see, or taste, but it kills you. Gas boilers that aren’t properly installed or haven’t been serviced properly can release too much CO… and then you don’t wake up in the morning.

You also need to keep an eye out (or nose) for general gas leaks too, which can be dangerous as gas is highly flammable.

So what should my landlord do to protect me from carbon monoxide poisoning?

Your landlord is legally required to get a Gas Safe registered engineer to check all your appliances once a year without fail. They should be able to produce a certificate to confirm that the appliances have been inspected.

How can I protect myself from CO poisoning?

Get carbon monoxide detectors and consider them as essential as fire alarms. As we said, CO is as silent and deadly as a ninja, and a detector is the only way you’ll know you’ve got a leak.

Other ways to protect yourself include the following:

  • If an appliance malfunctions (for example, it soots-up or burns with a yellow flame), or if, after using it, you experience symptoms including headache, chest pains, sickness or dizziness, stop using it straightaway and seek medical advice. Don’t use the appliance again until it has been checked.
  • Never, ever, block up the ventilation system in rooms containing gas appliances; that draught is good for you and is essential for the appliance to burn efficiently. You should also beware if previous occupants have sealed up potential sources of ventilation

If there’s a strong smell of gas:

  • Turn off the gas lever at the mains, which is next to the gas meter, by pulling the lever down.
  • Don’t operate electrical switches — on or off. A spark could cause an explosion.
  • Open all doors and windows.
  • Put out cigarettes and any naked flames.
  • Avoid rooms with a strong smell of gas if possible, as you may be overpowered.
  • Ring the local gas emergency telephone number: 0800 111 999 immediately.

If there’s a weaker smell of gas:

  • Check if a pilot light on a cooker, gas water heater, or gas fire has gone out, or a burner on the cooker has gone out.
  • Make sure you have turned off gas knobs properly.
  • If you find there is a leak, turn off the pilot light if there is a tap, or switch off gas at the mains by the gas meter.
  • Put out cigarettes, naked flames and switch off electric fires.
  • Open all doors and windows to let any lingering gas escape. Wait till the smell of gas goes.
  • Turn on the gas again at the mains, if you turned if off.
  • Relight the pilot light or burner.
  • If the smell of gas returns, phone your local gas emergency number immediately. Treat it as a serious gas leak and follow above procedures.

Photo of gas by Shutterstock

Next Steps




Updated on 29-Sep-2015