Immersion heater advice from the Electrical Safety Council

08 January 2008

Immersion Heaters

Consumer safety body The Electrical Safety Council has been receiving calls from worried homeowners concerned about the safety of their immersion heater following yesterday's inquest into the death of Rhianna Hardie.

Ten month old Rhianna Hardie's death was the result of a faulty thermostat on the immersion heater in her family's home, which caused boiling water to be discharged into the cold water tank causing it to overheat and pour scalding water on her as she slept. The coroner at the inquest, Michael Rose, said that up to 3.5 million homes in the UK could be at risk from a similar fault.

Phil Buckle, Director of the Electrical Safety Council comments:

"We would like to express our sympathy to the family of Rhianna Hardie. We urge the public not to panic about the safety of their immersion heaters. The Electrical Safety Council is advising homeowners that the fault that caused the collapse of the cold water storage tank in Rhianna Hardie's home, can be prevented through a simple upgrade of the existing immersion heater or by replacing the thermostat. Modern types of immersion heaters and thermostats have a safety cut-out to stop continuous reheating of the water in the event of the thermostat failing.

"If homeowners or tenants do suspect a fault with their immersion heater or they believe that the unit fitted in their hot water cylinder does not incorporate a safety cut-out device they should call a registered electrician to check it. As a matter of routine, electrical periodic inspections should be carried out on all homes every ten years and the electrician should be asked to include the immersion heater and thermostat during this check.

"If householders rely on an immersion heater as their primary source of hot water it is always sensible to use a timer – both as an additional safety feature and because it's more cost-effective."

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