Heating system risks double during cold season

Wood or pellet appliances, coal, fuel oil or gas-fired boilers… every winter, heating systems in our homes start working overtime without the benefit of regular maintenance. This maintenance is an essential task given the nature of the combustibles used, which come with risks to human health and safety. Far too often, news stories remind us that sometimes dramatic accidents can occur when using some of this equipment. Loss adjuster Stéphanie Dumoulin shares some rules to be followed.


Requirements related to using heating systems

Heating equipment must be regularly inspected by a qualified professional who will complete meticulous verifications and ensure equipment is functioning properly. As such, various laws confirm that the user, whether owner or lease holder (if outlined in specific rental contract clauses), must conduct annual maintenance on their heating system. The same goes for sweeping fireplace flues, which ensures there are no obstructions in order to limit fire and smoke inhalation risks.

While numerous requirements are the user’s responsibility, professionals in this field play a significant role. In addition to technical verifications on equipment and systems, the environment in which some of this equipment is installed must also be inspected.

For example, ventilation and air flow in areas with gas appliances are essential. Ventilation conditions in a space containing a gas appliance are specified in the decree of 2 August 1977.

When a gas-fired device vents smoke through a chimney pipe, it must have a direct air intake (fresh air supply from outside the room) or an indirect air intake (air supply passes through one or two rooms before arriving in the place where gas appliance is installed).

In order to allow air to circulate from one room to another (particularly when there is no ventilation system operating in each room of the residence), the dwelling’s doors must also be undercut. Without operational ventilation in a room where this type of heating equipment is installed, information provided by the professional is critical when taking into account the potential risks incurred if it malfunctions and backflows inside the dwelling.

Despite these various requirements, the risk of an accident remains and it is unfortunately fairly common to observe that heating system maintenance is still neglected all too often.


How to prevent heating system-related incidents

While law no. 2010-238 of 9 March 2010 made installing a battery-operated smoke alarm mandatory in living spaces, there are currently no provisions planned regarding carbon monoxide detectors, despite the hundreds of accidents recorded each year.

Given the lack of inspections and penalties, wouldn’t it be appropriate for insurers to consider playing an increased role in this area, as they are still the main participants involved in the event of a claim?

While compensation can be reduced with a proven lack of maintenance, the cost of these claims remains considerable.

Requiring users to provide proof confirming that the heating system undergoes regular maintenance when they purchase or renew comprehensive home insurance might encourage them to take responsibility for this task and thus limit material, financial and human risks for all parties.


Stéphanie DUMOULIN, Industries & Services Loss Adjuster

Find out more about her area of expertise