14 Home Gas Appliance Maintenance & Service Tips
Home gas appliances need to be regularly checked and have routine scheduled maintenance.
This is important to maintain proper function and safety.
Important for Safety & Saving Money
Having your gas appliance inspected and cleaned periodically by an authorised service technician will benefit performance, help ensure safe operation, minimise any potential down time and extend the life of your appliance.
The following are some points to keep in mind:
1. Qualified Personnel
It is important that your gas appliances are only service by qualified technicians.
In most cases, this means a licensed gas fitter or a factory technician.
Never attempt to fix a gas appliance yourself or allow an unqualified person to attempt to fix it for you.
2. Service Frequency
Manufacturers typically recommend that their gas appliances be serviced every one or two years.
For example, both Rinnai and Bosch generally recommend 2 year service intervals while Rheem and Paloma recommend annual servicing.
You should always refer to your owner’s manual for the recommended maintenance schedule that is applicable to the make and model of appliance you own.
A 'tune-up' just before heating season is ideal.
3. Read Your Owner’s Manual
It is very important that you understand the correct and safe operation of your gas appliances.
Improper use can result in safety hazards.
If you don’t have the owner’s manual, most gas appliance manufacturers have them available for downloading on their web sites.
If not, contact them directly to request a copy.
4. Warning Signs
Key warning signs that your gas appliance requires servicing are a yellow or red flame, a flame with a yellow burning tip, the accumulation of yellow/brown soot around the appliance, pilot lights that frequently blow out or an acrid smell and eye irritation.
The exceptions to this are gas fireplaces and gas log fires that are designed to have yellow flames.
The above signs may be indications of incomplete combustion.
The result is that you could be wasting gas and/or generating carbon monoxide.
The latter is a serious safety problem, if it occurs with an indoor appliance.
If you observe any of these warning signs, you should schedule a service ASAP.
5. Burner Operation
The burner should be cleaned and checked for proper operation.
Burners blocked with dirt can result in improper combustion, leading to soot build up inside the appliance.
6. Air Filters
Air filters and fans can become blocked by lint and dust. The result can be overheating and burner combustion problems.
Depending on the make and model of gas heater, you may be able to clean the air filter yourself.
Please consult your owner’s manual to see if this is recommended and how to do it.
7. Hoses & Connections
All hoses and connections should be inspected and leak tested.
Hoses on portable heaters should be carefully and frequently inspected, as they can become damaged or deteriorate with age.
Have your gas fitter replace any faulty hoses or connectors before use.
Flue pipes should be checked for damage, corrosion and blockages.
Holes, punctures or loose fitting joints require immediate attention.
If a flue needs servicing, call your licensed gas fitter to have it cleaned or repaired.
They need to be inspected for proper operation and replaced when necessary.
Your gas fitter will tell you if and when this is required.
10. Gas Pressure
Part of the regular service should include the checking for correct gas pressure and adjusting, as required.
Incorrect gas pressure can affect the amount of oxygen drawn into the burner with the gas.
If this happens, it can cause improper combustion. Excessive pressure could also create a safety hazard.
11. Fluctuating Water Temperature
12. Storage Tank Hot Water Heaters
These units have a Pressure Relief Valve.
This valve relieves excessive temperature or pressure build up that may occur inside the tank. It is normal for the valve to release a little water.
A continuous leakage of water from the valve and its drain may indicate a problem.
If you notice this valve frequently venting or continuously leaking, you should contact your plumber/gas fitter to check the entire water heater.
If you smell gas take the following gas safety precautions:
Turn off the gas at the source. At the meter for natural gas or at the cylinders for LPG gas users, but only if safe to do so. Avoid contact with any visible gas cylinder leak, as the gas stream can cause cold burns.
Extinguish all flames and do not smoke or strike matches.
Do not operate electrical switches or devices, including mobile telephones.
If the leak is inside of your home, open doors and windows to ventilate the area, but only if safe to do so.
Keep people away from the affected area until the gas dissipates.
Call your gas supplier or gas fitter, from a safe area, for repairs.
14. Carbon Monoxide
Properly functioning gas appliances are quite safe.
However, malfunctioning units may generate carbon monoxide.
If you experience any signs of carbon monoxide poisoning while operating your indoor gas appliance, you should stop using it until it is serviced by your gas fitter.
Be Safe & Save Money
You need to schedule regular servicing for your gas appliances.
If you notice anything damaged or abnormal in the operation, look or smell of the appliance, it is best to call your licensed gas fitter right away.
It is always better to err on the side of safety with gas appliances.
You keep your family safe and you could save money on gas, too.
The Smell of Safety – Odourised Gas
In their natural state, LPG (Propane and Butane) and Natural Gas (Methane) are all odourless gases.
The distinctive smell that people associate with these gases is actually added to them as a safety measure.
History of Adding Odourant to Gas
For many decades, the gaseous fuels industry has added odourants to LPG and Natural Gas so that people can detect gas leaks with nothing more than their noses.
Without the addition of an odourant, leaking gas could collect without being detected.
This would create a dangerous condition that could lead to an explosion or fire.
Much research has gone into the science of odourants and Ethyl Mercaptan is almost universally recognised as the best choice.
As a result, it is the most commonly used odourising agent.
The smell of Ethyl Mercaptan is often compared to rotten cabbage.
The strength of the odourant has caused some people to refer to the process of adding the odourant as “stenching”.
How & When it Gets Added
In the case of LPG, the Ethyl Mercaptan is added to the gas as it leaves the main storage terminals.
The amount added and the process are both carefully controlled.
The terminals themselves have gas detectors that can identify gas leaks without any odourant having been added.
Special Cases with No Odourant
There are certain applications where the odourant is not added.
Facilities that use odourless gas must have the same gas detection equipment as the gas terminals.
For example, Butane is commonly used as an aerosol propellant.
Needless to say, we wouldn’t want things like hair spray and deodorant to smell like rotten cabbage!
Ethyl Mercaptan is not a perfect odourant.
Under some circumstances, it can fade away and be replaced by a gentler smelling odour that might not be recognised as a gas leak.
Odourant fade is rare but it can happen.
While very few instances of odourant fade have been recorded in Australia, it has happened in other countries.
The presence of rust or moisture within an LPG tank could cause this fade.
To prevent this, new cylinders are filled with dry and inert nitrogen gas, to prevent both rust and eliminate the presence of moisture.
Once filled with LPG, the risk is virtually eliminated.
What You Can Do
LPG users can also assist in avoiding odourant fade by making sure that all disconnected gas cylinders have their valves closed, even when completely empty, to stop air (oxygen) and moisture from getting inside the cylinder.
This helps prevent the possibility of internal rusting.
Rust and moisture are also one of the things that are looked for when gas cylinders are periodically re-inspected.
The presence of either is cause for condemnation of the cylinder.
So, now you know why gas smells the way it does and why it is the ‘Smell of Safety’.
Comments, questions or feedback?
The information in this article is derived from various sources and is believed to be correct at the time of publication. However, the information may not be error free and may not be applicable in all circumstances.