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.