Faulty central heating boilers can create a serious health risk
The boilers that heat our homes are complex pieces of machinery. A heat exchanger heats cold water which is then pumped through a continuous circuit of pipes around our homes to heat radiators in each room with hot water. The circuit means that was the water flows through the house and back to the boiler, it will cool and will need to be continually heated back to the right temperature. Boilers, like most machines, need to be properly maintained and inspected frequently to reduce the risk of defects. Additionally, faulty gas central heating boilers can create a serious health risk as well as the potential for explosions which will damage properly and risk lives. Is your boiler a health risk?
But before we discuss the health risks of faulty boilers, let’s quickly look at this from a financial perspective.
With dramatically increasing living costs, many families are having to cut back on non-essential outgoings. But please don’t put boiler maintenance in the non-essential category. If a boiler is not maintained regularly, the likelihood of breakdowns and resultant serious issues is likely to increase. Breakdown costs over a period of time are likely to cost far more than the cost of regular maintenance. Plus, the potential health risks associated with a faulty gas central heating boiler are just not worth taking. And if that isn’t enough, badly maintained boilers are most likely to break down when they are most needed. Weeks without central heating during the winter is not what anyone wants!
If your boiler is regularly maintained by a company you trust, and you are advised your boiler has reached the end of its life, it gives you a better chance to plan the replacement at a better time of year. Also, current systems are far more efficient so you will have more time to research and find the most eco-efficient option which is not only good for the planet, but good for your bank balance too, especially with the extortionate rise in the cost of fuel. You may even be in a position to consider really efficient options such as heat or air pump systems.
Modern boilers also have significantly more safety measures than older models, which is a great reassurance.
Of course, not everyone has the money in their bank account to pay for a new boiler, so if there are financial constraints availing yourself of interest-free boiler finance can help alleviate your budget woes and is definitely worth considering if your boiler is a health risk.
Ensure you have a carbon monoxide detector
One of the biggest health risks with any gas appliance is the risk of gas or carbon monoxide leaks.
Natural gas has no smell, but utility companies add a harmless chemical to the gas that smells like rotten eggs, so even small gas leaks can normally be identified. However, anyone suffering from loss of smell will need to take additional precautions to avoid health issues or even explosions!
Natural gas burns blue when it has the right amount of oxygen. If it burns yellow, there’s not enough oxygen and your boiler may be creating a dangerous, toxic gas called carbon monoxide.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odourless gas and is often referred to as a silent killer. It is extremely dangerous, and it can be lethal if it goes unnoticed. Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when carbon monoxide increases in your bloodstream to a point where it replaces oxygen in the red blood cells.
Regular maintenance of your boiler is the best way to reduce the risk of any leaks, but a carbon monoxide detector is essential to detect any leak before long-term damage is caused.
Other signs of a potential carbon monoxide leak are:
- Pilot flames burning orange instead of blue
- Sooty stains on or near appliances
- Coal or wood fires that burn slowly or go out.
However, although a carbon monoxide detector is essential, unless it has a digital readout it is unlikely to show levels of carbon monoxide less than 50ppm and, as we shall explain below, there is also a risk on a long-term basis from those low levels.
Although this article is primarily about faulty central heating boilers that can create a health risk, the information about carbon monoxide poising is relevant to any gas, coal, or wood appliance.
What are the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning?
As explained on the NHS website, signs of low-level carbon monoxide poisoning are not always easy to detect as the symptoms are often similar to those of food poisoning and flu, although a high temperature is not exhibited.
The most common symptom is a tension-type headache, and other symptoms include:
- blurred vision
- feeling and being sick
- tiredness and confusion
- stomach pain
- shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
If you are away from the source of the leak, your symptoms are likely to be less severe; a good indicator that your illness relates to a specific area and therefore a potential CO leak should be investigated.
Babies and children are far more susceptible to CO poisoning and there symptoms harder to see and diagnose, so clearly a really important reason you ensure your boiler is regularly serviced.
Long-term exposure to carbon monoxide can result in more serious neurological conditions such as difficulty thinking and concentrating and mood swings.
Breathing in high levels of CO can include severe mental health issues, an increased heart rate, damage to the brain and the nervous system, angina or heart attack, miscarriage, and seizures.
Extremely high levels of carbon monoxide poisoning will lead to unctuousness and even death within minutes.
According to the NHS, there are around 60 deaths from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning in England and Wales each year but clearly, the number of people suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning at both high and low levels is extensive and the true figure may never be known.
Most people have heard of carbon monoxide poisoning, but few realise how common this is and the extent to which people’s health can be impacted – remembering that babies and children will be the first to be affected.
So, saving a little bit of money but not having your boiler regularly serviced, or not buying a replacement if your boiler is a health risk when you have been advised to so, is not only financially counter-production but could also be putting the well-being and even the lives of your family at risk.