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Building & Renovation

Maintaining Your French Heating Boiler

Thursday 15 October 2009

French law imposes an obligation to maintain your heating boiler, as well as your chimney or flue.

The legal requirement to ensure regular maintenance of your boiler has been around for over 30 years.

The obligation is contained in a set of public health regulations called the Règlement Sanitaire Départemental (RSD), which states that space and water heating equipment must be checked, cleaned and regulated at least once a year.

These RSDs are not widely understood, and like many laws in France they are probably honoured as much in the breach as the observance!  

According to the public health body the l'Institut de veille sanitaire, there are around 6000 incidents of carbon monoxide poisoning each year, 300 of which are fatal, and around 40% of which are caused by a lack of boiler maintenance.

Although primarily aimed at reducing CO2 emissions, the RSD regulations have recently been reinforced by a law introduced in June 09, which also specifies in greater detail the annual maintenance requirement.

The new law requires that all boilers fuelled by combustible gases, liquids or solids and with a power rating between 4kW and 400kW must be serviced once a year.

Servicing of a boiler must be carried out be a qualified and registered tradesman (normally plumber or heating engineer), who is required to provide a certificate of servicing within 15 days of completion of the work. The certificate must be retained by the owner for a minimum of two years.

The service should take around an hour and comprises a range of operations including cleaning of certain elements, replacement of the jet in the case of a diesel boiler, carbon monoxide measurement, and verification of the security system on the boiler.

The level of the charge is likely to vary from anything between €80 and €160 depending on where you live and the type and age of boiler you have installed. VAT is payable at the rate of 5% for all dwellings at least 2 years old.

As an alternative to calling out your plumber or heating engineer each year to maintain the boiler, some companies also offer an annual maintenance contract that will include breakdown support.

You can find a list of heating engineers and qualified plumbers on the site of the Fédération française du bâtiment, or through pages jaunes.

No penalties are stipulated for non-compliance with the legislation, but in the event of fire or other incident caused by a failure to maintain the boiler, then you can guarantee that insurers and the police would be most interested in this information!

Needless to say, apart from the legal obligation to do so, regular maintenance of your boiler will also provide energy savings. According to Ademe, the French energy conservation agency, savings of between 5% and 10% a year should arise, the boiler will suffer fewer major breakdowns, and its useful life will be considerably longer.

Chimney Sweeping

As we have pointed out in a previous Newsletter, you are also required by the same RSD regulations to have your chimney or flue swept at least once a year, and more often in certain large cities.

You can read more at Chimneys and Flue Pipes in France.

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