As residents across UGI’s service territory begin to use their heating equipment more frequently in response to cooler temperatures, UGI urges customers to take several simple steps to ensure proper operation of natural gas-fired equipment and appliances to prevent a build-up of carbon monoxide (CO) inside homes and work spaces.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas that is a by-product of the incomplete combustion of fuels such as wood, charcoal, gasoline, kerosene, oil, natural gas and propane. Symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea and dizziness.
CO poisoning can be fatal. Individuals who think they might be experiencing symptoms of CO poisoning should immediately seek fresh air and prompt medical attention.
UGI encourages all residents to take the following steps to ensure the safe operation of appliances:
• Properly maintain natural gas appliances. A malfunctioning furnace, boiler, water heater or stove can emit CO into a home or business. In addition, damaged or rusted exhaust vents, chimneys and flues can result in high levels of CO migrating into living spaces.
• Change or clean furnace filters regularly. Clogged filters can reduce the efficiency of your heating equipment and impede normal operations. Also make sure the filter you use is the proper size and shape for your system.
• Check that both internal and external combustion air vents are unobstructed. Vents can become blocked by vegetation or animal nesting materials during the summer months. Clear any debris or other obstructions away from vents prior to winter.
• Ensure that equipment rooms or utility spaces are properly sized and provide appropriate levels of ventilation and air circulation around heating equipment and appliances to ensure their safe operation. If a furnace or water heater was enclosed in a small room during recent remodeling or renovation, the reduced air flow can create a potentially unsafe situation.
• Make sure working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are appropriately located within living spaces, and the batteries powering them are fresh. CO detectors/alarms should be located on each floor of a home, including one in each bedroom or sleeping area. It is important to note that CO detectors have a limited operating life. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for related information and replacement considerations.
• Check for black stains visible on the outside of your chimney or flue. These stains can indicate a blockage allowing exhaust gas, including CO, to enter your home or workplace. Contact a heating professional to have equipment, chimneys and flues checked.
It is also important for residents to know the signs within a home or workplace that indicate an appliance may be malfunctioning and causing CO to enter living spaces.
These indicators include:
• Significant condensation on walls and windows;
• House pets becoming sluggish;
• Chronic odors from a malfunctioning appliance. While CO itself is odorless, the malfunctioning appliance may generate a burning, smoky or stale odor.
• Residents in the home suffering flu-like symptoms or feeling unusually tired.
If the heating equipment in your home or business is not working because of an electric power outage, never use an oven or grill inside your home to provide heat.
Use caution when using unvented space heaters, which can be a source of CO. Always follow manufacturer’s directions regarding use of these heaters.
Unvented heaters are designed for supplemental use only. Do not use unvented heaters in bedrooms, bathrooms, or confined spaces. Be sure to provide adequate ventilation in areas where a space heater is used.
UGI Utilities has headquarters in Reading, Pennsylvania and serves over 700,000 customers in 45 Pennsylvania counties and one county in Maryland. Customers interested in additional information visit the UGI website at www.ugi.com; on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ugiutilities; Twitter at www.twitter.com/ugi_utilities.