Avoid un­flued gas heaters in­doors for health’s sake


Many years ago, when I was a stu­dent in Dunedin, it was com­mon prac­tice to heat cold, damp, poorly in­su­lated stu­dent flats with un­flued gas heaters (UGHs).

Lit­tle did we know then about the tox­ins and mois­ture that the UGH was also pump­ing into our homes – and the ef­fects on our health.

But now, nearly 20 years on, sub­stan­tial re­search and ev­i­dence shows that th­ese harm­ful and in­ef­fi­cient heaters should not be used to heat our homes.

Yet they are still lining the shelves of hard­ware stores at this time of year.

UGHs are rel­a­tively cheap to buy, but they are the sin­gle most ex­pen­sive heat­ing source to run, 14 cents per kilo­watt more than elec­tric plug-in heaters.

And aside from the fi­nan­cial cost, they have sig­nif­i­cant health costs which house­holds need to know about.

As well as heat, UGHs also re­lease ni­tro­gen diox­ide, car­bon diox­ide, and car­bon monox­ide, which can all af­fect re­s­pi­ra­tory health, and cause nau­sea or dizzi­ness.

On top of this, UGHs emit half a litre of mois­ture ev­ery hour of use.

Damp­ness and con­den­sa­tion en­cour­age mould growth which can cause in­flam­ma­tion, al­ler­gies, and in­fec­tions.

It can also worsen symptoms of asthma, bron­chi­tis, and other breath­ing dis­or­ders.

Many fam­i­lies I work with are un­aware of th­ese risks and con­tinue to use un­flued gas heaters, de­spite suf­fer­ing from hous­in­gre­lated health is­sues.

I would strongly urge any­one who owns an UGH to re­place it with an elec­tric heater with a dig­i­tal ther­mo­stat. If your fam­ily or friends use an UGH, tell them about the risks.

And if you feel strongly about this is­sue, let store man­agers know that they should re­move UGHs from their stock and stop sell­ing them to un­in­formed cus­tomers.

Sus­tain­abil­ity Trust is work­ing for pos­i­tive change in this area.

As a mem­ber of the Welling­ton Re­gional Healthy Hous­ing Coali­tion, a net­work of or­gan­i­sa­tions in­volved in healthy hous­ing in the re­gion, we are work­ing to­wards get­ting th­ese heaters banned in New Zealand.

There are much bet­ter op­tions out there – for your health, and your wal­let.

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