Flues in Voids
As of January the 1st, 2013 the rules regarding flues in concealed voids changed. This article is aimed at clearing up some of the common issues that we have come across in regard to the legislative update.
The flue component of a gas central heating boiler can be made up of two components, one will be an outlet for the products of combustion, toxic gasses generated when gas is burnt to give heat and the other (If present) a supply of fresh air to the boiler itself. Flues are generally a large diameter “pipe” that will come off of the top of the boiler, but may also be made up of 2 plastic or metallic pipes which will also be coming off the top of the boiler.
Older properties will often find that their appliances are situated on an outside wall to allow this flue pipe to exit the building easily, however, as boilers have become more advanced and manufacturer’s have been developing solutions that allow flues to run further, giving more flexibility on the overall location of a gas heating boiler, we’ve seen developers taking full advantage and “hiding” the appliance flue runs often within ceilings and behind walls. This was never seen as a good practice, but the law is often slow to catch up and the buyer commands the market, if a developer can squeeze in another window or bathroom by moving the boiler to an inside wall, then they would often take advantage to increase their return on the investment. Unfortunately, this has been the case and over the past few years, it’s turned into an epidemic of flues running in all sorts of places and positions.
Well, as gas engineers, part of our job is to ensure that you are safe when your appliance is in operation, part of the procedure for ensuring your safety, is an inspection of the flue. When we cannot see the flue, or have no idea where it goes; we obviously cannot ensure your safety as we cannot inspect the integrity or suitability of the flue and it is for this reason that as of the 1st of January 2013, the law changed and Gas Safe Register got tough.
If you have a boiler that has a flue running in a “void” like a ceiling or wall, you must now provide us access points for inspection; if you do not, then our registered engineers are required (By law) to consider your appliance as unsafe and issue an At Risk notice, switching the appliance off.
Now; there have been a lot of questions, comments and frustrations regarding this and we’ve tried to compile a list of the common questions and issues, along with responses that we believe are suitable in response to them. Some have been unique situations which legislation has failed to give guidance and Gas Safe Register have also failed to provide a suitable response, as such, we have adopted our best engineering judgement to assist with the responses.
Do I need flue hatches?
Not everyone needs flue hatches, you will only need to get inspection hatches fitted if you have a “room sealed” boiler and it’s flue contains a joint within an area that cannot be accessed. Access will therefore need to be made with a flue hatch.
I have a commercial boiler, does it apply to me?
Technically, yes. However, the same rules apply as above. The appliance must be of the room sealed variety and very few commercial boilers are of a room sealed nature, please remember that a commercial boiler is one that has a rated input above 70kw, if you are a small office, you may actually have a domestic boiler which will likely be room sealed and as such, the rules would then apply.
How many hatches do I need?
That depends on how long your flue is and how many joints you have in your flue. We require an inspection hatch at every joint. If you was unlucky and had a builder install your flue with 1m lengths and it runs for a prolonged distance, you’ll have a “lot” of hatches (Just like that pictured at the top of this page), however most builders and installers will often limit their joints and as such, limit the amount of hatches that you need.
How do I know where the joints are and where to put the hatches?
Educated guessing is the business that we’re in. Obviously, you need flue hatches because we cannot see your flue, as such, until a hole is cut in your ceiling, we are guessing where to start – However, if you use N4 Gas to identify your locations, we’ve hit our target joints with incredibly accuracy so far.
What happens when my flue passes through my neighbours property?
Unfortunately, the property belongs to someone else and we cannot force entry, we will try to make access to carry out an inspection, but if we cannot access the property, there is not much we can do. However we do strongly recommend that you consider getting your flue re-routed as soon as possible for both you and your neighbours safety.
I have someone else’s flue running through my property…
This is unfortunately a practice that did take place and is now strictly forbidden. You do not have to give our engineers access, but doing so is for your own safety. As to who is responsible for paying the costs of hatches, that is yet something that nobody really knows. We feel that you should consider installing the hatches as they will allow the engineer visiting your neighbour to ensure your safety as well and as such are a good investment. However, if you fail to fit hatches or grant access, we are technically unable to enforce anything unless we deem that something is not right.
I’ve been told I need to buy a CO alarm for every room.
Yes and no, we strongly advise that a CO alarm is fitted in every room that a flue travels through; however, if the hatches are fitted, we technically cannot force you into providing them unlike the rules in force prior to January 2013. However, for the low investment and the re-assurance they can provide, sometimes they are the right choice.
Who has to pay for these hatches to be fitted…?
You do (Unless you rent, then it will be down to your landlord). If you are in a new build property that is covered under warranty, you should contact the warranty provider as in some cases, they will undertake the update work as technically, the boiler was installed in a potentially unsafe condition.
My boiler has been turned off with a sticker saying it is “At Risk”, can I turn it on again?
The engineer has classified the appliance as “At Risk” because it cannot be confirmed whether or not the appliance is safe to operate after testing. We do not advise that any person operates an “At Risk” appliance, however, if you choose to do so, you do so under your own risk and the consequences could be fatal. Engineers do not turn off appliances without a good reason and it is never about money (Despite what some might say, the government make nothing out of this).
Where can I find out more…?