Reading, PA – As colder winter weather has blanketed the area recently, residents have turned up the heat and closed in their homes. This has led to a higher risk of carbon monoxide (CO) build-up in living and work areas, and UGI has responded to a number of CO incidents over the past several weeks.
UGI urges customers to take several simple steps to ensure proper and safe operation of natural gas-fired equipment and appliances.
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.
Safety tips include:
- UGI encourages all customers to properly maintain their natural gas appliances. A malfunctioning furnace, boiler, water heater or stove can emit CO into a home. In addition, damaged or rusted exhaust vents, chimneys and flues can result in high levels of CO migrating into living spaces.
- Customers are also urged to ensure that both internal and external combustion air vents are unobstructed. Vents can become blocked by vegetation, animal nests or other materials during the warm weather months, and snow and ice during the winter. Clear any obstructions away from vents.
- Customers should 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. Be aware that enclosing furnaces and water heaters in small rooms during remodeling or renovation can reduce air flow and create a potentially unsafe situation.
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 plants dying;
- House pets becoming sluggish;
- Chronic odors from a malfunctioning appliance;
- Residents in the home suffering flu-like symptoms or feeling unusually tired.
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. To prevent CO poisoning, customers are urged to:
- Make sure there are working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors 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.
- If the heating equipment in your home or business is not working or if you experience an electric power outage, never use an oven, grill or other fossil-fuel burning device 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.
- 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 and chimneys and flues checked.
- 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.
UGI Utilities has headquarters in Reading, Pennsylvania and serves 690,000 customers in 44 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.