Background to gas appliance accreditation (for lay visitors)
This page is a greatly over-simplified snapshot of gas appliance product surveillance for the benefit of lay visitors. The information is already well known to Registered Gas Installers (RGI).

It will come as no surprise to learn that before any gas appliance can be installed in the UK, the products concerned have to be approved by what the HSE refer to as approved 'Notified Bodies'. The latter are concerned with product surveillance. Manufacturers are subject to strict regulations just the same as the rest of us. For further details visit the HSE.

It is clearly necessary to be able to positively identify any appliance with a unique identifier, so that any questions raised can be accurately targeted at the right product. Historically in the UK these identifiers were called GC Numbers (after the old Gas Council) but with the use of Europe wide Notified Bodies, not all appliances now use GC Numbers. The appliance I am concerned with, the Robinson Willey Firecharm LS Electronic gas fire (black), does have a GC Number which is 32.689.33.

The GC Number is not the same as a Serial Number. The GC Number may be likened to a 'species' of gas fire. The serial number specific to an individual gas fire of the same 'species'. If you have ever called a RGI to make an enquiry about maintenance work on a boiler or gas fire, the chances are the RGI will first ask you to find the GC Number on the dataplate. Now you know why.

The gas fire model concerned here (32.689.33) has a black cosmetic outer casing. There is also an otherwise identical model with a bronze cosmetic outer casing and that has a different GC Number (32.689.32). In other words even the most minor cosmetic difference forces a different model identifier, for the avoidance of any doubt. The bronze is therefore also a different 'species'.

If the manufacturer decided to produce the same product with a tartan cosmetic outer casing (put me on the list), a further unique GC Number would need to be allocated.

Everyone will recognise it is important for any appliance to be provided with clear instructions. That can include instructions for the householder as well as instructions for the RGI. Terms used by people for these documents can vary but for the purposes of this website I will always use the words Manufacturer's Instructions (MI) throughout, as that is best known to RGI. In ancient times incidentally, MI (Installation and Maintenance Instructions) always included instructions to RGI in large letters NOT to leave instructions with the householder ! The opposite now applies and RGI are required to leave documents with customers.

With regard to gas appliances, all MI are termed what the Gas Safe Register refer to as Second Tier Normative Documents. In other words these documents are regarded as hugely important. MI can trump all other documents except The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998. There are default British Standards that can be used in some situations where MI are not available. In the age of the internet and high speed broadband, obtaining MI is no longer the problem it used to be and indeed it was once a problem. We sometimes had to wait days for MI to arrive by post.

What I do not yet know - I intend to find out - is whether the MI are officially subject to the same scrutiny and oversight that the appliances themselves are. Bearing in mind documentation is referred to in the HSE pages (regulations) mentioned above. It seems obvious they must be but written proof is now needed for the future record.

One big problem with hardcopy MI is that they do not always survive where they need to. That is to say with the householder. For any number of reasons they go missing. When homes change hands, tenants change or they disappear into domestic black holes and can never be found. Some people are actually fanatical about saving such documents, most are not. RGI assume they will not be available when they need them so, given it is now easy, they download PDF copies from the manufacturer's website and leave any new hardcopy MI pristine-in-plastic for the householder to keep.

Please keep all the above in mind as you read.
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