Managing your appliances


Appliances fuelled with gas, oil, kerosene, or wood may produce Carbon Monoxide (CO). If such appliances are not installed, maintained, and used properly, CO may accumulate to dangerous and even deadly levels in homes, cars or poorly ventilated areas.


Many heating appliances are expected to 'work' 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, keeping us warm and supplied with constant hot water. However, like any other equipment, they work better and last longer when correctly installed, burn the right fuel and are properly maintained.

Keep warm and safe by following the simple steps below.

The right fuel

In order to get the best value for money it is important to burn the right fuel in your appliance.

Coal and wood should be the correct size and moisture content, oil should be the proper grade (mostly 28 seconds) and gas should be matched to the appliance.

If you are in any doubt about which fuel is suitable for your particular appliance, please contact the organisations listed within each fuel type.

Air supply

All fuels require an adequate supply of air to make them burn correctly. If too little air is available, fumes that are harmful to your family may escape into the room.  

Never seal up flues, chimneys, air bricks or ventilation grills, you may be putting your family at risk. Again seek advice if you are in any doubt.

Flue-way cleaning

Many solid fuel fired appliances have flue-ways through which the hot gases pass to the chimney. These flue-ways should be swept clean every month to remove any soot or ash.

Some stoves and room heaters have a removable/drop down plate in the top of the fire box - this should also be removed and cleaned once a month. Remember; always let the fire go out the day before cleaning.

Chimney sweeping

All chimneys and flues should be inspected annually and swept, if required, by a registered technician. However, if your appliance is used continuously throughout the year or burns wood and coal more frequent sweeping is recommended.

The best time to have your chimney swept is at the start of the heating season.

It is also strongly recommended that the chimney be swept after any prolonged period when the appliance has not been used, for example holdiays.

Remember these recommendations apply even if you burn smokeless fuels.

Appliance servicing

It is vitally important to ensure that new installations are carried out by recognised and established engineers and serviced by competent companies or individuals.

Always follow the manufacturer's instructions for boilers, stoves, gas fires and solid fuel room heaters. HSENI recommends a service at least once a year depending on the fuel being used.


Oil is stored as a liquid in oil tanks and delivered as two grades - 28 second and 35 second.

Oil burners are designed to operate on a particular grade of fuel and it is important that the fuel delivered and used is the correct grade for your appliances.

Typical appliances burning oil

  • heating boilers
  • cooking or heating ranges
  • air heating units

Oil is also extensively used in industrial and commercial premises including hospitals and factories.

Carbon monoxide signs to look out for on your appliance

The following signs may indicate a likelihood of excessive generation of carbon monoxide and leakage of flue gases into a premises:

  • sooting around the appliance
  • sluggish burning
  • smells
  • chimney blow downs
  • soot deposits in others areas of the house, such as bedrooms

Another sign can be excess condensation in the room where the appliance is located.

Servicing advice

Appliances should be serviced in accordance with manufacturers instructions and at least annually.

The manufacturer of the appliance is the best source of information on how to safely use their appliance. 

Always use a competent person to install and service oil burning equipment. An example would be an OFTEC registered engineer.

Servicing should include an analysis of flue gases with an appropriate analyser and a check for any defects to appliance and flue.

You can contact OFTEC for more advice:

Solid Fuels

Solid fuels include:

  • coal
  • peat
  • slack
  • smokeless fuels such as anthracite, phurnacite and ovoids

Typical appliances burning solid fuels

  • open fires
  • solid-fuel cookers
  • room heaters
  • multi-fuel stoves/fires
  • gravity feed boilers

Smokeless fuels are often specifically designed for use in particular types of appliances, for example Anthracite Beans & Grains are suitable only for gravity-fed appliances.

It may be dangerous and it may damage the appliance if the wrong fuel is used, so follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your appliance and for any smokeless fuel when selecting the solid fuel to burn.

Servicing advice

It is extremely important to follow the manufacturer’s operating instructions for an appliance, particularly with regard to regular maintenance and having the chimney cleaned.

Most solid-fuel appliances require regular, simple, attention from the householder such as removing/cleaning a throat plate, emptying the firebox/ash pan, cleaning heat exchangers and opening air controls.

An annual service by a competent engineer is highly recommended for a more thorough check up.

The manufacturer’s instructions will tell you what you need to do and to have done.

All solid-fuel appliances chimneys should be swept twice a year - more frequently if the appliance is used excessively or after a prolonged period when it has not been used.

Use a registered sweep, who can advise on the condition of the chimney at the same time.

More advice

The manufacturer of the appliance is the best source of information on how to safely use their appliance.

Further advice is also available from The Coal Advisery Service and OFTEC:

The Coal Advisory Service

The office is staffed Tuesday and Thursday from 9.30 am to 4.00 pm.



Wood is burnt as logs & branches and in many processed forms such as sawdust, chips and pellets. It is seen as a green, renewable, energy resource.

Typical appliances burning wood

Open fires, ranges, word-burners & boilers providing heat, hot water and/or central heating. It is burnt in appliances designed for use in the home and also in large-scale industrial units designed to supply heat, steam and even electrical power.

Servicing advice

Wood is highly variable in terms of moisture content, calorific value and ash content, all of which affects the servicing needs and lifespan of wood-burning appliances.

It is extremely important to follow the manufacturers operating instructions for the appliance, particularly with regard to regular maintenance and having the flue cleaned regularly.

Carbon monoxide signs to look out for on your appliance

The following signs may indicate a likelihood of excessive generation of carbon monoxide and leakage of flue gases into the premises:

  • sooting
  • smells
  • moisture
  • condensation
  • poor heating performance 

More advice

The manufacturer of the appliance is the best source of information on how to safely use the appliance.

The flues of wood-burning appliances usually require more frequent sweeping than flues of appliances burning other fuels, and your sweep should advise you of excessive condensation and tar deposition in the flue.


Gas can be either Natural Gas (NG) or Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG: propane or butane). Natural gas is supplied by pipeline and LPG is supplied in bottles and from bulk tanks. NG and LPG gases are not interchangeable, and appliances have to be designed and adjusted for the type of gas used.

Typical appliances burning gas

  • fires
  • heaters
  • cabinet heaters
  • stoves/hobs
  • boilers
  • central heating systems for use in domestic premises

Gas is also used extensively in:

  • restaurant/takeaway kitchens
  • commercial/industrial heating systems
  • some manufacturing systems

Some appliances cannot be fitted in areas where persons may be sleeping.

Servicing advice

Always follow the manufacturers instructions. All gas consumers are advised to have appliances checked for safe operation at least every 12 months.

Please note that some appliances may have specialist requirements.

Installation, checking and maintenance must only be carried out by a Gas Safe Registered engineer.

Insist on seeing the engineers Gas Safe Register card before allowing work on an appliance and check their competencies are appropriate - see the reverse of their card.

Never block or obstruct ventilation grilles, air bricks, air inlets or flues, since this can cause an appliance to malfunction.

Although using a carbon monoxide alarm is an excellent precaution, it can never be a substitute for proper installation and maintenance.

Carbon monoxide signs to look out for on your appliance

Gas appliances should burn with a steady blue flame (except for some fuel-effect fires which are designed to burn with a yellow flame – see the manufacturers instructions).

The following can all be signs of poor combustion and excessive generation of carbon monoxide:

  • an unsteady or yellow flame
  • sooting/scorching/staining around appliances and flues
  • pilot lights which blow out
  • excessive room condensation
  • unusual smells 

More advice

The manufacturer is the best source of information on how to use and maintain an appliance, however the appliance must still be installed and set up properly by a Gas Safe Registered engineer.

Gas Safe Register

HSENI can also provide more advice about gas:




Key legislation

Please note that these links are to the original legislation, visitors should verify for themselves whether legislation is in force or whether it has been amended or repealed by subsequent legislation.