Natural gas safety for winter

Natural gas is cost effective and clean burning, so it’s no surprise that the fuel is used in over 60 percent of American households, according to the Energy Information Administration. Like all fuel sources, natural gas can cause risks for homeowners if the fuel is mishandled. The possibility of an accident is even higher during the winter when gas use is at its highest and frigid weather makes it harder to stay on top of the performance of a gas furnace. That’s why it’s in the best interest of homeowners to consider the many safety factors that come into play when operating natural gas appliances in ice and snow. A bit of planning and preparation will help families to both stay safe and make minimal payments to their natural gas utility provider.

Stay safe during an outage
The loss of electricity can create big problems during the winter, especially when it comes to keeping the house warm. Many homeowners consider creative strategies for heating their home’s in lieu of electric power, including lighting up their gas stoves as a source of ambient heat. The Ravalli Republic warns that this heating strategy is extremely dangerous and should never be attempted by homeowners. In addition, any natural gas generators owned by the family should be used outdoors. Allowing natural gas to run freely inside the home is a recipe for disaster and could expose a powerless home to excess carbon monoxide. If possible, run backup generators outdoors and lead an extension cord into the home in order to power key appliances.

Catch leaks before the holidays
With the winter season comes holiday visitors, long vacations and plenty of distractions. It can be difficult to catch gas leaks when the season is in full swing. Between shopping and decorating, most homeowners find their schedules squeezed a little tighter during the end of the year. That’s why it’s smart to check the home for gas leaks as soon as possible. Failure to catch a leak guarantees wasted resources and an inflated gas bill, but the consequences of an unchecked gas leak could grow much worse. Exposure to an open flame could cause a dangerous explosion in a gas-filled room. Likewise, improperly vented appliances are more likely to release unhealthy carcinogens into the air. Homeowners who perform a detailed inspection of the home will reveal possible leaks by searching for the sounds and smells of escaping gas.

Take care when clearing vent pipes
Keeping a gas furnace working in top shape all winter requires homeowners to keep an eye on outdoor vent pipes and meters, said utility NSTAR. Performance of the the home’s heating performance will suffer when these sections of the system are covered with snow and ice. Homeowners can avoid these problems by removing snow and ice that collects on vent exteriors. Take care when trying to remove icy buildup – using too much force may cause injury or damage the heating system. When it comes to making sure the ventilation system is working properly, it is often best to get ahold of a professional.

Professional inspections preempt problems
One way that homeowners can minimize their risks for a natural gas accident is by keeping in contact with their local utility provider. Contractors schedule maintenance checks and preventative repairs year-round, so homeowners who get their natural gas appliances serviced before the cold weather hits will reduce the chance of their appliance breaking down in the dead of a night. Routine check-ups keep natural gas furnaces running as efficiently as possible as well.

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