New safety regulations around concealed flues could boost the electric market, claims EHC.

The introduction of fan-flued gas appliances in the mid-1990s allowed gas central heating boilers to be installed away from external walls. This meant that builders could design newbuild and refurbishment properties with boilers being installed on internal walls to make better use of the available space. The flues to these boilers were, in some cases, routed through voids in the ceiling space (and through stud walls) between properties above.

On 2 October, 2008, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) issued a safety alert to raise awareness of the potential dangers from certain types of flues connected to gas-fired central heating installations in some properties. This focused particularly, but not exclusively, on a large number of flats and apartments completed since 2000 that may not have been installed properly, or may have fallen into disrepair.

To comply with The Gas Safety (Installation & Use) Regulations, a flue must be visibly inspected throughout its route, but if built into a ceiling void, the ability to do so is impaired unless inspection panels are part of the construction.

In November 2010 the HSE issued new guidelines and landlords have until 31 December, 2012, to arrange for inspection hatches for such flues.

After 1 January, 2013, any gas engineer working on a system where the complete flue is not visible will advise the landlord that the system is ‘at risk’ in accordance with the Gas Industry Unsafe Situations Procedure (GIUSP) and, with the owner's permission, will turn off the gas supply to the boiler so it cannot be used. Urgent action needs to be taken as, after this date, any appliance where the complete flue is not visible will be condemned and disconnected.

Although the gas boiler and flue may be condemned this does not mean that the entire system needs to be condemned. EHC believes that, by installing an electric boiler, the homeowner will benefit from the same controllability and flexibility that their gas heating system offered. As electric boilers are silent in operation and do not require flueing, they can be located in almost any room within the property.

As there is no Annual Safety Inspection required on electric boilers, there will be significant cost savings to private and social landlords. EHC added that, while there is some belief in the market that electric heating is expensive to operate, the company can offer impartial advice on the best electricity tariffs within the UK to ensure that running costs are kept to an affordable level.