Using gas safely
Gas is a safe and reliable fuel if you use it correctly. However, using gas or gas appliances incorrectly can cause fires, injury and even death.
General gas appliance safety tips
- Only buy or use Australian safety tested and certified gas appliances.
- Make sure any permanent gas appliances are installed by a licensed gas fitter.
- Always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Make sure the gas appliance has adequate ventilation to operate properly and prevent the build-up of toxic gases, particularly in small areas, such as caravans where doors and windows are tightly sealed.
- Only use gas appliances for their designated purpose, eg never use a gas stove to heat a room, as it’s not designed to operate safely for that purpose.
- Only use the correct gas type for the appliance, eg if an appliance is designed to use natural gas, it is very dangerous to run it using LPG.
Maintaining gas appliances
- If you have gas appliances in your home or you are a landlord who rents out homes with indoor gas appliances, have them serviced every two years by a licensed gas fitter. Also, ask the gas fitter to check the appliances are safely installed.
- For flued gas appliances, regularly check the flue is clear and not corroded. If it’s damaged, call a licensed gas fitter to get it repaired so dangerous toxic gases don’t build up in your home.
- Watch out for signs that the gas isn’t burning properly. Signs include:
- a rotten-egg smell and eye irritation
- soot or yellow-brown stains on or around the appliance
- a pilot light that keeps blowing out
- changes in gas flame colour – a gas flame is normally blue, so if it turns yellow it normally means an increase in the amount of carbon monoxide being produced.
Reduce fire hazards
- Teach children not to play with the controls of a gas appliance or light a gas appliance without adult supervision.
- Never use or store combustible materials near gas appliances, including aerosols, laundry and cleaning products, paper, paint, curtains, clothing, bedding or flammable liquids.
- Never leave a heater unattended – if a fire starts while you’re asleep or away from your home, it could become out of control before you’re able to respond.
- Make sure portable heaters are kept upright at all times and not where they could be knocked over. Avoid putting them on table tops, unless they’re designed for that purpose, as the heat could damage the table or they could fall off and start a fire.
- If using solvent-based paints in a small, poorly ventilated space, turn off any gas appliances in the room until the paint is dry and the solvent smell has disappeared.
- If using an insect bomb to fumigate your house, read and strictly follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the packaging. The propellant in these products is normally flammable and the vapours may be ignited by a gas appliance burner, pilot light or other ignition sources.
- Make sure you read and understand the manufacturer’s instructions for your gas appliances before turning them on and lighting any pilot lights.
- If a licensed gas fitter has just installed a new appliance for you, ask them to show you how to use it properly.
- If you’re using a match or lighter to light a gas appliance, light the match or lighter before turning on the gas. If the gas doesn’t light or your flame goes out, turn off the gas and wait a few minutes before trying again.
- If your appliance won’t light
- Check your gas supply is turned on before calling a licensed gas fitter to have it checked
- If the appliance is under warranty, call the retailer or manufacturer
- If your gas supply won’t turn on, contact your gas supplier.
- If the gas supply company isolated your gas supply, they’ll help you restore the gas and relight your appliances. If you’re not home when they come to help, they’ll leave a brochure to guide you through the steps for relighting appliances.
- If your gas supply has been turned off and back on again, air can get trapped in the gas pipes in your home. The first appliance you light will purge any trapped air but may take a few moments to light while the gas flows from the meter. If there is air in the pipework, the appliance you light may go out shortly after. Turn it off, wait a few minutes for the unburnt gas to disperse, then try to light the appliance again. Once it is lit, let it burn for at least three minutes so the gas is flowing properly. Gas cooktops are the easiest appliances to light first, if you have one.
Outdoor appliances in partially enclosed areas
Outdoor gas appliances, such as barbecues, camping stoves and patio heaters are designed for use in highly ventilated areas. When gas doesn’t burn properly, it produces toxic gases (eg carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides) that are poisonous and can kill you. Using outdoor gas appliances indoors or in a confined space with limited ventilation is very dangerous, but using them correctly outdoors means the toxic gases will vent away quickly and safely.
If a gas appliance has been marked for outdoor use only, do not use it indoors or in partially-enclosed areas without adequate ventilation. Look for a warning label on the appliance or check the manufacturer’s instructions for more information.
The Building Ideas television program, produced by the Master Builders Association of South Australia and featured on Channel 9, featured a segment on using gas appliances safely for outdoor entertaining.