Image of RICS logo.

Gas


Image of a LPG gas tank.

As a home owner you have a responsibility to yourself and the residents in your home to ensure that your gas fittings and appliances are safe. It is very important that gas appliances are installed and regularly checked for safety by a Gas Safe Register engineer. It is recommended that you arrange safety checks on an annual basis.

There are around 30 deaths in the UK every year and hundreds of serious injuries caused by Carbon Monoxide poisoning due to faulty gas appliances and flues. When contacting a gas installer to carry out your annual check, install a gas appliance or for another reason, always use a Gas Safe Register engineer. These registered installers have to undertake high levels of training in order to work with gas. Non-registered installers are breaking the law. If your installer is not registered then you have no guarantee that they have the necessary competencies or gas safety awareness that are required to carry out the job safely. 93% of gas work carried out by non-registered installers has been found to have serious safety defects.

Landlords
As a landlord, you have a duty to ensure: Gas fittings (appliances, pipework and flues) are maintained in a safe condition. All installation, maintenance and safety checks are carried out by a Gas Safe Register engineer. An annual safety check is carried out on each gas appliance/flue by a Gas Safe Register engineer. Checks need to have taken place within one year of the start of the tenancy/lease date, unless the appliances have been installed for less than 12 months, in which case they should be checked within 12 months of their installation date. A record of each safety check is kept for two years A copy of the current safety check record, which can be either a Gas Safe Register engineer Gas Safety Record or something similar, is issued to each existing tenant within 28 days of the check being completed, or to any new tenant before they move in (in certain cases, such as holiday property, the record can be displayed).

Please note: An appliance service inspection will not necessarily meet the information recording requirements of a landlord's annual safety check, nor will the annual safety check be sufficient to provide effective maintenance. Always ask the advice of a Gas Safe Register engineer.

Carbon Monoxide
Invisible, odourless and tasteless - carbon monoxide (CO) lives up to its name as the silent killer. Exposure to relatively low levels of this highly poisonous gas can cause brain damage or death. CO can be produced when a gas appliance has not been correctly installed or maintained, or a flue or chimney has become blocked. Symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to those of viral infections and include drowsiness, weakness, headaches, nausea and pains in the chest. If anyone in your house has any of these symptoms when using a gas appliance, stop using the appliance until it has been checked by a Gas Safe Register engineer. Consult a doctor and mention the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Image of the Gas Safe logo. Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG)  
LPG is the generic name for commercial propane and commercial butane. There are hydrocarbon products produced by the oil and gas industries. Commercial Propane predominantly consists of hydrocarbons containing three carbon atoms, mainly propane (C3H8). Commercial Butane predominantly consists of hydrocarbons containing four carbon atoms, mainly n- and iso - butanes (C4H10). They have the special property of becoming liquid at atmospheric temperature if moderately compressed and reverting to gases when the pressure is sufficiently reduced. Advantage is taken of this property to transport and store these products in the liquid state, in which they are roughly 250 times as dense as they are when gases.

There are two grades of LP Gas, butane and propane. Butane is usually supplied to customers in cylinders, propane can be supplied in cylinders or in bulk for storage in tanks at the customers premises.  Butane is used mainly for portable applications in mobile heaters in the home, and for leisure activities such as boats, caravans and barbecues. Propane is the LP Gas used for central heating, for hot-water, and gas-fires, convector heaters and, of course, for cooking.

Remember, virtually all appliances offered for natural gas use can be provided for LP Gas use. You must however specify that it is required to operate on propane as details like gas jet sizes are different. There is a lot more heat energy in a cubic foot of propane, than there is in a cubic foot of natural gas.

Bulk Storage Supply
The usual method of providing the LP Gas system for home heating etc. is to provide a small storage vessel which the road tanker will deliver the liquid into. This is then connected to the house, often by a buried pipeline so that from here it is then much the same as other piped gas supplies. The LP Gas supplier will provide a storage vessel on hire or rental terms which will cover its maintenance and regular inspection. The position of the storage vessel is important and the LP Gas supplier will be able to advise you on the detail. For instance, the road tanker must be able to park in a safe position when making a delivery and the vessel needs to comply with Codes of Practice which specify the distance from the house and the property boundary. Consideration is also needed to the run of the road tanker delivery hose when making a delivery, so that it will not cause inconvenience while it is laid out from the hose reel.
Since the liquid in the vessel creates its own gas pressure, no pumps are needed. When the outlet valve on top of the vessel is open, gas will flow. In fact the pressure has to be reduced, usually in two stages, down to the standard 37mbar for domestic appliances and pressure regulators are incorporated in the system to achieve this. Other controls are also provided to ensure maximum safety of supplies. These and other technical details are set out in the Association Code of Practice 1 part 2, drawn up by member companies. The pipework installation from the storage vessel should be carried out by a Gas Safe Register engineer and the LP Gas supplier will be able to provide advice on this. At the house an emergency control valve will be provided, so that the internal gas system can be readily isolated if necessary.

LP Gas appliances like natural gas appliances are among the most efficient available, besides being among the most environmentally friendly forms of energy use. The latest developments include the new breed of "condensing" boilers which reduce considerably the fuel bill by extracting even more useful heat out of the LP Gas. For new or replacement boilers these are worth considering. Once installed, the LP Gas supplier will fill the vessel and will agree with you the method of providing further supplies. The supplier can usually provide a top-up service which will ensure you always have gas on tap, or you could choose to telephone for a refill as necessary. Cylinder Supplies Sometimes it is not possible to fit an LP Gas storage vessel into a small garden. An alternative is to use LP Gas cylinders which are less restricted in terms of location. Although they come in many sizes the most appropriate for home heating are the propane 46 or 47 kg. size. Propane cylinders are always located outside of premises and the gas piped in. They can provide a similar service to the bulk vessel except for large off-takes. For central heating installations it is usual to use four cylinders, two either side of an automatic change-over valve, often called a 'four-pack' system. The gas supply is fed from two cylinders at a time and when they begin to run out, the automatic device switches to the other two. Cylinders can be replaced then without interrupting the supply. Hazards LPG (propane or butane) is a colourless liquid which readily evaporates into a gas. It has no smell, although it will normally have an odour added to help detect leaks. It can burn or explode when it is mixed with air and it meets a source of ignition. It is heavier than air, so it tends to sink towards the ground. It can flow for long distances along the ground, and can collect in drains, gullies and cellars.

LPG is supplied in pressurised cylinders to keep it liquefied. The cylinders are strong and not easily damaged, although the valve at the top can be vulnerable to impact. Leaks can occur from valves and pipe connections, most likely as a gas. LPG liquid can cause cold burns to the skin.

Precautions
a) Fixed cylinder installations - If you have one or more cylinders fixed in position for connection to an appliance, the installer must ensure that they are located in a safe place and have all the necessary safety devices to protect the hoses, pipework and appliances attached to them. However you need to look after the installation. In particular you should: - ensure the cylinders are kept secured in position and are not tampered with. - if you have a maintenance contract (with the LPG supplier or other reputable company) make sure they come at the specified intervals, and that any work required is done. If the equipment is leased, make sure the owner keeps to the lease terms regarding maintenance. Keep all the paperwork relating to the installation for reference. - don't let anyone work on the installation unless they are suitably trained and competent to do the work. - read the operating instructions, and the emergency actions, and ensure that everyone who needs to knows them and follows them carefully. - don't do any modifications which may affect the safety of the installation, such as altering fire walls, or erecting sheds or fences or installing electrical equipment near the cylinders. If in doubt, ask your LPG supplier for advice. - make sure that "No Smoking" signs and any other safety notices are maintained.

b) Cylinders not fixed in position - keep all cylinders in a safe, well-ventilated place, preferably in the open air, and away from occupied buildings, boundaries and sources of ignition and of heat. Make sure the cylinders are properly secured and are kept upright.

c) In all cases: - keep rubbish and anything combustible well away, and keep weeds and grass in the vicinity cut down. Don't use chlorate-based weedkiller, as it can be a fire hazard. - don't let anyone have any electrical equipment, vehicles, bonfires, barbecues or other sources of ignition near the cylinders. Exceptions are items purpose-designed to use LPG, such as gas-fired barbecues. Do not smoke when changing cylinders. - keep people not involved with the installation well away from it, particularly children. - keep vehicles well away from the installation. - make sure that the pipework or flexible hose from the cylinders to the point of use is protected against accidental damage and is properly supported. For underground piping, make sure you know the route it takes, and avoid putting anything in the ground which may damage the pipework. - report any equipment failure or damage to your supplier without delay, and ask them for advice about what you should do. Deliveries If you have cylinders delivered, make sure you order the right number and type of replacements. Don't order more than you need, as you may not have space to keep them safely. On the delivery day, make sure the parking area is clear for the delivery vehicle. Keep away from the vehicle while the cylinders are being handled. Return of Cylinders Local LPG suppliers and dealers can be found in the Yellow Pages under Bottled Gas or Gas Bottles or Gas Suppliers. LPG cylinders remain the property of the gas company and are refilled by exchange.

IF A CYLINDER IS NO LONGER NEEDED IT SHOULD BE RETURNED TO A LOCAL DEALER OF THE COMPANY OWNING THE CYLINDER.

If A Fire Or Leak Occurs
1) Dial 999 to call the fire brigade. Tell them an LPG tank is on the premises.
2) Tell everybody to leave the premises and go to a safe place well away from the installation. If you have a fire alarm activate it.
3) If it is safe to do so, turn off all LPG appliances.
4) If you think that you have an LPG leak, or that a LPG appliance is not working properly, call the LPG supplier so they can come and make safe.
5) If the leak is indoors, open doors and windows.
6) Do not switch any lights or electrical equipment on or off, as this may cause a spark.
7) A leak in the LPG piping can be stopped by closing the manual outlet valve on the tank, but only do this if you can approach the valve safely. If the tank has a remotely-operated shut-off valve, operate the control to close the valve if IT IS SAFE TO DO so.

Fire fighting
Don't try to put out a fire involving LPG - leave it to the fire brigade. It is safer to evacuate everyone from the area. An overheated tank can explode. If you have fire-fighting equipment for use on paper, wood, rubbish, etc., make sure that you know how to use it, and that it is maintained regularly. Don't try to use it on burning LPG. A fire involving grass, rubbish, etc. can be tackled with a fire extinguisher or hose reel IF IT IS SAFE TO DO SO. Always call the fire brigade first. If the fire is near the tank or its pipework, or if you can't put it out quickly - leave it.

Further information
For general advice on LPG safety, ask the enforcing authority for your premises. For most domestic premises this is the Health and Safety Executive. For commercial premises (such as offices, hotels and leisure/holiday facilities) it is the environmental health department of the local authority. If in doubt contact the local office of the Health and Safety Executive. For queries on the use of your installation, ask the LPG supplier or equipment owner/supplier. The LPG supplier should provide you with a 24-hour contact number for emergencies. For advice on fire precautions, ask the fire prevention officer of your local fire brigade.
 
Detailed guidance on bulk LPG storage is available in Code of Practice 1 Part 1 - Design, installation and operation of vessels located above ground Part 2 - Small bulk installations for domestic purposes Part 4 - Buried/mounded LPG storage vessels.

Link to external website. The Gas Safe Register

Link to external website. Liquefied Petroleum Gas Association


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