Be Smart About Gas Appliances
Take care of your gas appliances to keep them running efficiently and prevent potential safety hazards such as exposure to dangerous carbon monoxide.
General Gas Safety Tips
- Perform annual inspections. Have gas appliances inspected every year by a licensed professional or SDG&E®.
- Ensure adequate airflow. Do not store anything near a gas appliance that might interfere with normal airflow.
- Properly store combustible and flammable items. Never use or store combustible and flammable items or products in the same room or near any gas or heat-producing appliances.
- Flammable products include gasoline, spray paints, solvents, insecticide, adhesives, foggers, varnish, cleaning products and other pressurized containers
- Combustible products include rags, mops, paper and other materials that can quickly catch fire
- Appliances are not heaters. Do not use your oven, range or out-door barbecue to heat your home.
- Use decorative fireplace logs with care. Open the fireplace/chimney damper completely when operating a decorative gas log.
More Safety Tips:
- Attic Insulation
Attic insulation can help lower your energy bills, but when improperly installed, can create a fire hazard. Keep insulation safe by:
- Protecting it from heat sources. Avoid contact with furnaces, water heaters, recessed light fixtures, fan motors, doorbell transformers, chimney flues and vents.
- Installing a non-combustible barrier. Prevent contact with heat sources by creating a barrier.
- Avoiding contact with wiring. Bare wires or ‘knob and tube’ wiring can create a fire hazard with insulation.
- Clearing air supply openings. Make sure all air supply openings to forced-air furnace are free of any insulation.
- Allowing proper airflow. Leave attic or eave vents uncovered.
- Contacting a state-licensed insulation contractor. If you have any questions about proper installation, contact a professional.
- Checking regularly. Check periodically for insulation changes or movement.
- Water Heaters
Gas water heaters have a main burner flame and a pilot light flame, which can ignite flammable vapors. Prevent fire hazards by:
- Avoiding flammables. Do not install a water heater where flammable products will be stored or used.
- Elevating. Water heaters installed in garages must be elevated a minimum of 18 inches above the floor.
- Using earthquake straps. Improperly secured water heaters can move or topple during an earthquake. Strap the heater to a wall stud.
- Lowering the temperature. Lower water temperature to prevent scalding. Water temperature above 125 degrees F can cause severe burns or even death. Test the temperature before bathing or showering.
- Reading the manual. Review your instruction manual before using your water heater.
- Verifying proper strapping. Your local building department or permitting office can confirm that your water heater is properly secured.
- Unvented Gas Heaters
CAUTION! Using an unvented natural gas, propane or kerosene space heater or fireplace is unsafe and dangerous. These devices are not approved for home use and violate California Health and Safety Code.
- Combustible materials and combustion by-products. Without venting, extremely dangerous materials and by-products such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, soot and unburned hydrocarbons are released directly into your home.
- Carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is toxic, and deadly, at high levels and can cause long-term health problems at low-levels.
- Associated health problems. Carbon dioxide can make you feel drowsy and cause eye irritation. Nitrogen dioxide, even at low levels, may affect your immune system and increase susceptibility to respiratory infections.
- Oxygen depletion. Room heaters use up oxygen, so without enough air from an outside vent or open window they can result in serious illness or death.
- Fire hazard. Unvented heaters may have uncovered flames, which can result in injuries or fires.
- Ranges and Ovens
Improper use or poor maintenance of a gas range or stove can result in carbon monoxide poisoning, oxygen depletion and fire. Reduce your risk by:
- Never using your range or oven to heat your home. These appliances are not designed for this purpose.
- Preventing grease fires by keeping the burners and range top clean. Excess grease can create a fire hazard.
- Natural Gas Fireplace Logs
Always be cautious when using natural gas fireplace logs, as improper use or poor maintenance can result in carbon monoxide poisoning, oxygen depletion and fire. To avoid serious accidents, permanently block the chimney damper open.
- Furnace Safety
Maintain your furnace to keep it operating efficiently and protect against carbon monoxide poisoning, excessive heat and fire. Different types of furnaces require different kinds of care:
- Avoid lint build up. Vacuum floor furnaces regularly.
- Keep children away. The furnace grill can become very hot.
- Do not cover or block. Avoid placing rugs, furniture or combustible items over the grill as this can block airflow and cause a fire.
- Maintain burners. Clean the burner compartment of built-in vented wall furnaces one a month during the heating season.
Central Gravity Furnaces
- Clean the furnace heat register. Keep it free of lint and dust.
- Maintain unobstructed flow. Do not place items nearby that might stop or prevent airflow.
- Avoid fire hazards. Keep combustible items such as newspaper or cleaning equipment away.
- Check the filter. During heating season, check the filter on a monthly basis and clean or replace when necessary.
- Maintain safe front panel/door position.
- Ensure the front panel door of the furnace always fits snugly.
- Never operate the furnace without the front-panel door properly in place to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Most newer forced-air furnaces have a safety switch that prevents furnace operation when the filter compartment door/panel is not in place.
- Older furnaces installed in a closet and operated with the panel/door not in place can circulate carbon monoxide throughout the house.
- Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas formed when carbon-based fuels, such as kerosene, gasoline, propane, natural gas, oil charcoal or wood, are burned with inadequate amounts of oxygen. Prolonged exposure can lead to death by asphyxiation.
- Unexplained nausea or drowsiness
- Mental confusion
- Flu-like symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, vomiting or shortness of breath
What should you do if you suspect carbon monoxide is present?
- Turn off the appliance as long as it is safe to do so.
- Evacuate the premises and call 911.
- Seek medical attention if anyone demonstrates carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms.
- Call for an appliance inspection and do not use the appliance until it has been inspected.
You may want to install a home carbon monoxide alarm in addition to regularly maintaining your gas appliance. Also perform routine maintenance on your alarm and replace it every 3-5 years to ensure proper functioning.
- Gas Appliance Safety Recalls
Visit the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission website*e for gas appliance safety recall information or call the CPSC at 1-800-638-2772. TDD/TTY 1-800-638-8270.