Natural gas furnaces are popular with homeowners. They are efficient and affordable to operate, particularly when compared to electric furnaces. In cold climates, they’re vastly more efficient than electric furnaces.
But there are some hazards associated with having a gas furnace, from fire to carbon monoxide poisoning. The risks are low, but accidents do happen. Follow these five safety procedures to keep your family safe.
1. Buy a Carbon Monoxide Detector
Gas furnaces can develop leaks and cracks over time that allow deadly carbon monoxide gas to escape into the home. Older gas furnaces pose an even greater risk. And because carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless, it is impossible to detect until you start feeling symptoms.
To reduce your risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, buy a carbon monoxide detector and install it in semi-close proximity to the furnace. If your furnace is located in the basement, the wall along the basement steps is a good place. Carbon monoxide detectors are sold at almost all discount and hardware stores, usually for about $20 to $40.
2. Turn Off the Pilot Light
Most newer gas furnaces have a continuous pilot flame. But you don’t need the pilot light turned on in the summer months, when you’re not using the furnace. Turning it off is a simple, two-minute task that greatly reduces the risk of fire or carbon monoxide poisoning. The bonus? You’ll also shave a few bucks from your energy bill.
3. Keep the Area Clear
Too often, accidental fires are caused by improperly storing items too close to a gas furnace. Keep the area around the furnace free from old boxes, loose paper, clutter or debris. (We know it’s tempting, but your furnace room is not supposed to be a storage closet.) Be especially careful not to keep gasoline, cleaning products or other combustibles anywhere near the furnace.
4. If You Smell Gas, Evacuate Immediately
If you smell gas, there’s a serious risk. Don’t take chances. Avoid igniting any sort of flame or using any type of electrical device. Don’t flip light switches on or off, and don’t attempt to use any kind of appliance. If there’s a gas leak, any of the above can trigger an explosion. Evacuate the home immediately, turn off the gas supply from the outside meter and call the fire department from a cell phone or neighbor’s house.
5. Get It Serviced
One of the best ways to avoid danger is to have your gas furnace serviced on a regular basis. This is especially important if your furnace is old. Newer models have sensors that shut down the furnace if a problem is detected, but most older models do not. Ideally, you should have your furnace cleaned and inspected once a year.