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Boiler woes

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X-Ray production team X-Ray production team | 16:45 UK time, Monday, 28 November 2011

This winter we’ll all be turning up the heating to stay warm.

But X-Ray viewer Celia Smith from Crymych had no idea her elderly father’s boiler could be putting his life at risk.

In February 2009 Celia spotted something called the Home Energy Efficiency Scheme, run by the Welsh Assembly Government. It made buying a new boiler affordable.

In 2009 the scheme was being run by a company called EAGA, who are now known as Carillion Energy Services. And to get a new boiler installed Celia said her father had to put some money towards it as well, “We thought it would be safe and well worth while, and it should have been something wonderful for him really.”

After the boiler had been fitted in early 2009, an inspector noticed a problem with the electrics that someone needed to come back and fix. But no one ever went back. It wasn’t until July this year, when Celia’s dad broke his hip and needed to move into a home that they found out there was a serious problem with the boiler.

An electrician came to check the house before a new tenant was due to move in, and he had some shocking news for Celia. He’d discovered that the boiler hadn’t been earthed – meaning it had been left in a potentially very dangerous condition for over two years.

Celia told Lucy Owen she was horrified, “I really was, because it could have killed my dad, it could have killed any of us, it’s just ridiculous.”

We asked John Williams, who’s an electrical lecturer at Coleg Sir Gar, to explain what could have happened. He told us, “The earth is part of your safety circuit, so if any fault occurs the fault current will travel through the earth and back and operate the protective devise - cutting off the electric.”

He said leaving a boiler unearthed is extremely dangerous and could be fatal, “I find that astonishing, a very dangerous situation, in the case of a fault now [there’s] nowhere for electric to go.

“All the metal work of that boiler or any metal attached to that boiler like the hot water pipes, the central heating pipes, the radiators, all have the potential to become live.”

After getting the boiler fixed independently for £460, Celia got in touch with Carillion, who now own EAGA, seeking a refund of the original £650 her father had paid for the boiler, and for the cost of fixing it.

They told her to get in touch with British Gas, who now run the Welsh Assembly’s scheme. But British Gas say that Carillion remain liable for work done before the 1st April this year.

Celia says it’s been frustrating, “I was just passed around from pillar to post, and nobody cared. I tried to contact someone to come out, and I was just sent around for days weeks and months on circles on the phone.”

X-Ray wanted to know if there was a possibility that other people’s boilers, installed under the scheme at that time, could have been left in the same state.

Carillion have told us that all heating works were independently inspected and quality checked and that on this rare occasion, the remedial works that were identified and needed on Mr Thomas's boiler, were not carried out as specified. And the company doesn't believe that the problem could have been repeated in other homes.

Carillion has now offered to pay Celia £650. They've also apologised that on this occasion the service levels did fall short. British Gas have also offered £350 as a good will gesture.

Celia says the whole experience has left her feeling angry, “Angry, very angry, that they put my father, a vulnerable old man in such a dangerous position.”

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