Geelong public housing tenants feel the winter chill as faulty heaters are reviewed

GEELONG properties are among more than 6500 Victorian public homes which have potentially dangerous gas heaters, the State Government says.

Vulcan Heritage and Pyrox Heritage space heaters were removed from sale earlier this year after the Australian Gas Association raised concerns about potentially “unsafe levels of carbon monoxide” they produce.

Around the state qualified tradespeople are testing the 1970s era heaters after the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) recommended public housing tenants stop using them.

Norlane single mother-of-two Anita Johnston was told to stop using the Vulcan heater at her public housing home in April.

It was finally replaced last Friday, but Ms Johnson endured a tough start to winter.

“You end up not being able to do the dishes at night because it’s that cold in the house,” Ms Johnston said.

“Sleeping is difficult … it is demeaning not living with a heater in winter.”

Ms Johnston said she first called the Department of Health and Human Services, who manage public housing, in April to request a replacement heater.

“I’ve called the department eight times and have got nowhere.”

On Friday after the Geelong Advertiser questioned the DHHS regarding Ms Johnston’s situation, she said an “electrician told to drop everything” arrived with two replacement heaters.

“I don’t like that bureaucrats can act like this. I was still waiting for a replacement before (the Geelong Advertiser) made the call.”

A DHHS spokeswoman said testing of Vulcan and Pyrox heaters in public housing would be a long process.

“There are 6525 known Vulcan or Pyrox heaters across public housing properties in Victoria, and the department is taking action to disconnect and replace these heaters,” the spokeswoman said.

“Given the large volume of heaters installed in public housing this work will take time to complete, however, contractors are working steadily to complete this work.

“The department is providing temporary heaters to tenants and is also providing a subsidy until a permanent heater has been provided or until October 31, whichever comes first.”

Victoria’s Director of Energy Safety Paul Fearon said heater manufacturer Climate Technologies has a program in place to test every private house with a Vulcan or Pyrox heater.

“This is a timely reminder that everyone should have indoor gas appliances, especially heaters, checked by a qualified gasfitter every two years,” Mr Fearon said.

Private homeowners with the Pyrox or Vulcan heaters should call Climate Technologies on 8795 2462 to have it checked, and those in public housing can call 1800 148 426.

Story by: Chad Van Estrop, Geelong Advertiser