Ignorantia juris non excusat – Gas Regulations
Or in English – “Ignorance of the law does not excuse.”
One of the most frequent problems we encounter when planning, quoting or physically doing gas installations, is that people are not very well informed in terms of what is and what is not allowed when it comes to gas installations. Just as there are compliance laws for electrical installations, plumbing and in fact the building itself, there is a strict code to which ALL LPG installations must adhere.
The problem that exists currently, is not that people are unaware of the existence of these gas regulations, but simply that they are not aware of what the basics are when planning their gas installations.
For simplicity, and given our target audience, this post will focus on Domestic Gas Installations, as governed by SANS code 10087-1:2013 of which edition 6 is the latest, but please be aware that different gas regulations may apply for commercial and industrial installations.
Where can I put my cylinders?
One of the first considerations when planning your gas installation is the location of the cylinders. Many people feel the cylinders are an eyesore, so they try to build enclosures for the cylinders, or try to hide them around a corner out of sight – this often leads to disappointment when a gas installer has to tell them that their proposed location may not be a legal one.
The SANS standard has a very clear list of minimum distances that MUST be observed when choosing cylinder locations. Gas cylinders must always be at least:
- 1m away from any opening into a building that extends below the level of the container valve (doors, windows, airbricks)
- 2m away from any drain, pit or manhole
- 3m away from property boundary which is NOT a firewall.
- 3m away from any opening or window directly above the containers.
- 5m away from an electrical (or any) source of ignition (switchbox, DB board, electric motor etc.)
- 2m away from forced draught inlet for airconditioner
- 1.5m below any outdoor lights
- 3m away from combustible materials
In some cases making sure that all these minimum distances are adhered to can make it very difficult to find a suitable outdoor location for cylinders. The SANS standard does however allow for a single cylinder up to 19kg to be installed indoors in a cupboard provided that:
- Flexible gas hose does not pass through the solid partition between cupboards
- the cylinder may NOT be installed directly below the appliance (ie hob)
- the cupboard MUST NOT contain any electrical switches or plugs or any other sources of ignition
- The cupboard must be sealed from adjacent sections
- the cupboard door must have a ventilation slot at the top AND bottom
- if the back of the cupboard is on an outside wall, a ventilation hole should also be made to the outside towards the bottom of the cupboard.
These basic regulations are by no means the only considerations mentioned in the code, but should at least put you on the right track towards planning a suitable cylinder location.
As mentioned before, there is a temptation to put cylinders in some form of enclosure, since some may consider them an eyesore (we happen to think they are beautiful!). The SANS code does allow for this, however, again the type of enclosure must be carefully considered. For example, the regulations require that the enclosure provides at least 80% cross ventilation and that the enclosure must be constructed from non-combustible materials.
More and more modern kitchen designs incorporate an ‘island placement’ for the stove. In theory this is not a problem as the gas line can simply be run under the floor to the appliance. Unfortunately this is not entire true.
The first and most obvious obstacle is that in most cases we arrive on the site of the installation and a PVC conduit has already been provided in the floor for the gas line to go through. In most cases these end up being unusable since the copper tubing is quite rigid and can not be pushed through the bends and elbows usually put into these conduits to make them follow the intended path towards the gas cylinders. Another interesting point is that these conduits are almost never placed at the required depths as stipulated by SANS 10087-1. By law all buried pipe lines MUST be at least 500mm below the surface and a chevron tape must be buried at around 250mm above the pipe so that one is aware of its presence should it ever be dug up again.
Most importantly for island kitchens however is section 126.96.36.199.2 a) of SANS 10087-1, which states: ” When pipes are chased in a concrete floor, they shall require floor plans. In other words if your gas line is set to run under your kitchen floor, it MUST be marked on your approved plans as submitted to your local municipality.
It is now a legal requirement for your gas installer to provide and install signage near your installation. These signs need to display warnings such as ‘no naked flames’ and ‘no smoking’ etc, as well as the installation dates and the installer’s name and contact details.
Signs also need to be installed to point out the emergency gas shut off valves.
Get help BEFORE you start work:
The guidlines above are really just a very short summery of the most important points to consider when you are planning your installation. In no way is this a complete plan to follow to the letter. The full SANS standard as it applies to domestic installations is over 80 pages long and there are many more factors to consider, so if you want our number one golden rule, here it is: Get a registered gas installer to have a look at your proposed project before work starts. Most installers will offer consultations/ quotes free of charge and having their knowledge on hand from the outset will make it much less likely that you will run into regulatory problems with your gas installation.