Fire safety guide
Solid fuel is an efficient and economical method of heating your home.
Solid fuel heating can greatly reduce condensation, eliminating household mould often associated with ‘on/off’ fires. Medical research has also shown that solid fuel heating can reduce the risk of hay fever, asthma and eczema as the use of a chimney draws fresh air through the house and removes ‘polluted’ air, creating a better ventilated home.
There are however some risks to be aware of with solid fuel fires to ensure you remain safe in your home.
Carbon monoxide poisoning
Carbon monoxide is a deadly odourless gas which can cause illness, permanent health damage and in some cases, death. It is formed by the incomplete combustion of fuels including gas, coal, wood and oil.
A certain amount of carbon monoxide is formed during the normal process of burning various fuels. This gas is safely evacuated from the home through a chimney or flue.
However, if the chimney or flue is blocked, leaking, or if your appliance airways or throat plate are not clear, then this may prevent the gases from being expelled into the atmosphere, flowing back into your house. In some properties which have a common shared chimney, the gasses could flow into a neighbour’s property. The subsequent results can be deadly. It is also important to note that in extreme weather conditions, fumes can be forced back down the chimney.
Carbon monoxide is an odourless gas and because of the properties of smokeless fuels, you may not see any smoke. The other combustion products from the fuel generally omit an odour. Where fumes can be smelt in the house, this can indicate a problem.
Almost all cases of carbon monoxide poisoning with solid fuel are the result of a blocked or leaking chimney or poor maintenance.
Maxibrite strongly recommend that you install a carbon monoxide detector.
The importance of good ventilation
Heating appliances, whatever fuel they burn, need to be able to ‘breathe’ in order to function efficiently and safely.
For a solid fuel appliance to ‘breathe’, they need a constant and enough flow of air. The room must not be completely airtight.
If your home has draught-proofing or double-glazing fitted you may need vents or airbricks in an exterior wall of the room. If vents or airbricks are already there, always ensure they are not blocked or covered. If in doubt contact your local HETAS heating engineer to check your ventilation.
Chimney / Flue cleaning
To enable your appliance to ‘breathe’ efficiently it is essential that you do not allow soot or ash to build up where it can hinder or prevent the free flow of smoke and other products of combustion.
- Empty and check the ash pan every day.
- Flue ways at the back of the boiler should be cleaned once a week. Always let the fire go out and allow ashes to cool before cleaning.
- The throat plates at the top of the room heater should be removed and cleaned monthly.
- Have your chimney swept at least once every year, preferably before each winter. Always use a recommended chimney sweep, preferably a member of the National Association of Chimney Sweeps, Guild of Master Sweeps or Association of Professional Independent Chimney Sweeps. Check in Yellow Pages or contact us for a list of members in your area.
In order to prevent the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning, and to ensure a safe operation of your solid fuel appliance we recommend:
- Fitting a carbon monoxide monitor and smoke alarm. These devices should be testing regularly.
- Ensuring proper ventilation.
- Regular cleaning and sweeping. Your chimney should be swept at least once per year.
- Always use the right fuel for your appliance.
- Follow appliance user guide.
- Never leave an open fire unattended without a fireguard.
- Always use a securely fitted fireguard when children are in the house.
If your appliance begins to burn slowly, goes out frequently or if you smell or suspect fumes:
- Open doors and windows.
- Carefully put out the fire or allow it to burn itself out.
- Do not stay in the room any longer than necessary.
- Do not attempt to re-light the appliance until a professional has checked it.
- Contact your local HETAS heating engineer or the Solid Fuel Advice Line.
More information is available from the following websites:
Solid Fuel Association. https://www.solidfuel.co.uk/