The latest Gas Safe inspection data shows that one in two UK homes containing a gas fire were found to contain an unsafe gas fire. With a poorly ventilated gas fire often being a common culprit for carbon monoxide poisoning, the Gas Safe Register has launched a new campaign, 'Let It Flow', to alert Brits to the dangers of the lack of ventilation and air flow when it comes to heating one room of their homes with a gas fire in this manner.

An improperly maintained or ventilated gas fire can lead to incomplete combustion, producing carbon monoxide, which in some cases may enter the property causing this toxic gas to linger – 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 smelt, and some symptoms mimic the effects of a virus and even a bad hangover.  

Further compounding the issue, the research found a number of individuals are expecting to sleep in this heated room.

Elizabeth Saxton, 42, a Gas Safe-registered engineer from York, said: “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. 

"That’s why I’m working with the Gas Safe Register to urge people to get their gas appliances safety checked this winter – 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, added: “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, as all produce a residue of carbon monoxide, a highly poisonous gas. 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.  

“Carbon monoxide can be extremely dangerous, even deadly, especially as it’s an odourless, colourless, tasteless gas. 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 annually: The most important thing you can do to minimise the risk of CO poisoning is to ensure your gas appliances are safety checked, at least annually, by a Gas Safe registered engineer. You can find and check an engineer at or call 0800 408 5500
  • Make sure all rooms with gas appliances are properly ventilated: ensure that any rooms that contain a gas fire or stove are well ventilated, and that there are no blockages to ventilation
  • Fit an audible carbon monoxide alarm: this will alert you if there is carbon monoxide in your home, as you cannot see, smell, or taste CO
  • 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 carbon monoxide poisoning: carbon monoxide poisoning can be hard to identify, as symptoms such as headaches and nausea can easily be mistaken for other illnesses such as flu, colds, or even a hangover. If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, 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
  • Locate your Emergency Control Valve (ECV): in the eventuality you do suspect there is a gas leak or carbon monoxide in your home, find out where your gas ECV is located, so you can switch the gas supply off in an emergency.