LOS ANGELES, — Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) has issued home heating safety tips and advice on how to keep natural gas bills low this winter. In Southern California, the heating season typically begins in November and can last through March. During these colder months, heating can account for more than half of natural gas bills.
Here are some tips to stay safe and lower bills.
General furnace safety
Customers who turn on their heat for the first time after several months of not using their furnace should remember these safety tips:
- Never store or use highly flammable products in the same room as any natural gas or heat-producing appliances.
- Never store ordinary combustibles such as rags, mops or paper on or near an appliance.
CO poisoning prevention
Heating units and other appliances should be properly maintained to avoid the threat of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Have natural gas furnaces checked at least once a year by a licensed heating contractor. In addition:
- Vacuum and clean in and around the furnace regularly, particularly around the burner compartment, to prevent a build-up of dust and lint.
- Never store items in, on or around an appliance as this can obstruct airflow.
- Most forced-air units have a filter that cleans the air before heating and circulating it throughout the home. Check furnace filters every month during the heating season and clean or replace the filter when it becomes visibly dusty or dirty.
- When installing a new or cleaned furnace filter, be sure to re-install the front panel door of the furnace properly so it fits snugly. Never operate the furnace without the front-panel door properly in place because doing so may create the risk of producing CO.
- Check the appearance of the furnace flame. If the flame is yellow, large and unsteady, the furnace needs to be inspected immediately by a licensed heating contractor to have the condition corrected.
- Never use an unvented natural gas heater in a home. This is dangerous and a violation of the California Health and Safety Code.
- Never use an oven, range or outdoor barbecue to heat your home. These appliances are not designed for this purpose and can cause CO poisoning.
- Make sure all natural gas appliances—such as stove tops—are safely maintained and vented properly.
- Install a CO alarm in your home. California’s Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act of 2010 requires that all homes with a fossil fuel burning appliance, fireplace or attached garage be equipped with CO alarms. But though these alarms may provide an extra level of safety, keep in mind that they require routine maintenance and replacement at least every three to five years to perform properly.
- Even with alarms in place, regular natural gas appliance maintenance is still required. Inspection and routine maintenance are still an effective defense against accidental CO poisoning.
- If you suspect that you or someone else is suffering from CO poisoning, call 911 immediately.
How to save on bills
Winter temperatures can make natural gas bills increase significantly. Here’s how to reduce your natural gas use and save money:
- When it’s cold outside, water heater stays on longer to heat the colder incoming water. Turn down the temperature on your water heater, wash clothes in cold water, and take shorter showers to reduce your natural gas use.
- Keep your thermostat set to 68 degrees or lower (if your health allows).
- Lower your thermostat at night and when you are not at home.
- Limit use of non-essential natural gas appliances such as spas and fireplaces to help keep bills down.
- A leaky faucet or pipe may increase your bills. Hot water leakage causes an increased demand on the water heater which increases gas use. One drop of hot water per second can waste 500 gallons of water per year.
- To learn ways to save, options for paying your bill and understanding your bill, go to www.socalgas.com/pay-bill.
- If you have an Advanced Meter, get a savings plan customized to your home and usage history by signing up for SoCalGas’ “Ways to Save” tool. Go to https://www.socalgas.com/save-money-and-energy/energy-saving-tips-tools/ways-to-save.