A rethink is urged on unflued gas heaters
Packing up your portable gas heater now that summer’s on its way? Beacon Pathway general manager Nick Collins suggests you think carefully about the costs of using it again next winter.
According to Beacon Pathway, unflued gas heaters are used in a third of New Zealand homes, yet they shouldn’t be.
On the face of it there are many benefits to using unflued gas heaters. They seem to be a relatively cheap heating option, and they’re portable too. But what makes unflued gas heaters convenient also makes them unhealthy.
Because they do not have fi xed vents to the outside, they release dangerous gases into the enclosed spaces they heat: Carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide in particular.
Tests show that using an unvented gas heater for just one hour can result in levels of nitrogen dioxide three times the World Health Organisation limit for occupant health.
Exposure to nitrogen dioxide inflames the lungs and reduces immunity to infections. It prolongs the effects of colds, causes coughing and wheezing, and can result in more frequent and more severe asthma attacks.
In high concentration, carbon monoxide causes asphyxiation and death. Even at low levels it results in tiredness, clumsiness, loss of concentration, nausea, dizziness and headaches.
Quite simply, by using unflued gas heaters we risk the health of our families. While it’s unlikely to have fatal consequences, people living in homes heated this way are likely to be sicker more often, with higher health costs and more time off school and work.
The health issues of unflued gas are well-recognised overseas where some countries have banned their use in homes.
Although New Zealand hasn’t yet restricted use of unflued gas heaters, warnings about their use have been issued by government bodies including the Ministry of Health, EECA, Ministry of Consumer Affairs and regional public health services.
Unflued gas heaters do more than release toxic gases into our homes; they are also a prime source of condensation, releasing as much as one litre of moisture into the air for every hour of use.
The result is that many people using unflued gas heaters simultaneously run a dehumidifier to reduce moisture levels in the air.
In fact BRANZ surveys show that households with unflued LPG heaters are twice as likely to have a dehumidifier.
At between 14 and 42 cents per litre of water removed, dehumidifiers are expensive to run. Getting rid of indoor moisture is the hidden cost of using unflued gas heating.
Not only that, but where there’s condensation, there’s mould. Mould is not just unsightly and damaging, it’s unhealthy too, and can aggravate respiratory illnesses like asthma.
With spring here, many of us are packing up our heaters. Beacon Pathways advises those with unflued gas heaters to consider retiring them for good and replacing them with a healthy, clean heating device. It will keep your family healthier and might save you more than just money in the long run.
The Government’s Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart programme offers funding for insulation and clean, efficient heating – take them up on it and enjoy a healthier winter next year. www.energywise. govt.nz
For further information, a range of affordable alternative heating options and healthy home-heating tips, visit:
www. beaconpathway. co.nz
http: / / www. smar terhomes.org.nz/ energy/ heating