Guest Column: Now is the time for a heater check

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As temperatures cool down, home heating use goes up. It’s important for homeowners and renters to inspect their home heating appliances and perform any maintenance necessary to avoid any health or safety hazards. 

Early cold fronts are prompting people to turn on their heaters or furnaces for the first time in months. This time of year fire departments respond increasingly to calls of “odor of gas inside” and gas leaks. Heating appliances should be serviced annually to keep them operating safely and efficiently. A licensed heating contractor or Southern California Gas Company representative can provide this service for you. 

Not having an annual maintenance inspection on gas appliances could result in exposure to carbon monoxide, which can cause nausea, drowsiness, flu-like symptoms and even death. Does your residence have a carbon monoxide detector installed? Check with your local fire department for advice on installing one. 

Here are a few tips for a safe, warm and energy-efficient winter. 

Have natural gas furnaces checked at least once a year by a licensed heating contractor or Southern California Gas Company representative. Vacuum and clean regularly in and around the furnace, particularly around the burner compartment to prevent a buildup of dust and lint. Never store items in, on or around the appliance that 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 necessary. 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 carbon monoxide poisoning. 

Check the appearance of the flame. If the flame is yellow, large and unsteady, the furnace needs to be inspected immediately by a licensed heating contractor or Southern California Gas Company to have the condition corrected. Using an unvented gas heater in your home is dangerous and a violation of the California Health and Safety Code. 

Never use your oven, range or outdoor barbecue to heat your home because these appliances are not designed for this purpose. 

Again, the best advice is to contact a licensed qualified heating contractor or Southern California Gas Company representative inspect your furnace.