A woman's hands wrapped around a mug containing a warm drink, indicating being cold

Using a gas fire to heat one room is putting 4.5m Brits at risk

More than 10 million Brits are expected to heat just one room of their home at any one time this winter. New research carried out by Gas Safe Register has also revealed that more than one-third of people admit that, when it’s very cold outside, they cannot afford to heat their whole home to a comfortable level.

Almost one in ten (7 per cent) of Brits, or around 4.5 million people, plan to only use the room that is heated using a gas fire. Of those who own a gas fire, more than half (53 per cent) intend to keep doors and windows closed all day over the coming months to help keep their home warm.

However, the lateset Gas Safe Register inspection data shows that one in two gas fires in UK homes is unsafe. A poorly ventilated gas fire is often a cause of carbon monoxide poisoning, and so Gas Safe Register is warning people to be aware of the dangers that a lack of ventilation and air flow can cause when using a gas fire to heat the room.

An improperly maintained or ventilated gas fire can lead to incomplete combustion, which produces carbon monoxide, putting those in close proximity at risk. Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning can be deadly and is especially dangerous as it cannot be seen, tasted or smelled, and some symptoms mimic the effects of a virus and even a bad hangover.

Further compounding the issue, 15 million Brits (including 15 per cent of respondents over 65) are expected to sleep in this heated room. The main reasons for this are the cost of living (51 per cent), poor mobility (12 per cent) or pre-existing illnesses (13 per cent).

Elizabeth Saxton, a Gas Safe registered engineer from York, says: “With many feeling more of a financial squeeze in recent years, heating one room instead of the whole house is becoming more and more commonplace.

“I’ve noticed an increase in this myself when going out to visit customers, especially the elderly, with some even opting to sleep in a room with a gas fire to stay warm – which I would never recommend. It can certainly be an effective way of saving money but if you’re using a gas fire to heat one room, it’s so important to ensure your appliance is gas safe and to ‘let it flow’ with sufficient ventilation. CO poisoning can be deadly and it’s much better to be gas safe than sorry.”

Rob Denman, head of Professional and Field Services at Gas Safe Register, adds: “The research we’ve commissioned has highlighted some potentially worrying insights. While it’s completely understandable that people will be trying to find ways to save money this winter, it’s so important that you’re not putting your own or others health at risk.

“With a majority of people using gas fires intending to have their doors and windows shut all day, we are urging the nation to ‘let it flow’ over the winter months. All gas-burning appliances need an appropriate supply of fresh air to burn properly. If the air supply to the gas fire is restricted, the level of carbon monoxide produced rises sharply – which is why ventilation is so important.

“We’re urging households to ensure that gas appliances, including gas fires, are safety checked annually by a qualified Gas Safe engineer through the Gas Safe Register – and to let the air follow in the home, even when heating just one room. If you do one thing this winter, check the Gas Safe Register to find a local engineer who can help.”

Gas Safe Register’s top tips to ‘Let It Flow’ this winter:
• Ensure gas appliances, including gas fires, are safety checked and serviced every year.
•  Make sure all rooms with gas appliances are properly ventilated and that there are no blockages to ventilation.
• Fit an audible carbon monoxide alarm.
• Know the signs of a potential carbon monoxide leak: lazy yellow flames rather than a crisp blue flame, hissing or whistling sounds, and dust, dirt, or other debris at the fireplace base – could all be signs of CO in your home.
• Know the symptoms of CO poisoning. If you suspect it, get some fresh air and leave the house as quickly as possible. See a doctor and, if you are very unwell, call 999 for an ambulance. The National Gas Emergency Helpline is also available 24/7 on 0800 111 999.
• Know where your emergency control valve (ECV) is: If you suspect a gas leak or carbon monoxide in your home, switch the gas supply.

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