San Diego Gas & Electric
SAN DIEGO, Feb. 2, 2010 – The cold, wet wintry weather in Southern California over the past month has caused people to fire up their furnaces and, for some, be exposed to potential carbon-monoxide poisoning. San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) is urging customers to ensure their equipment is operating safely by taking advantage of the utility’s free furnace inspections.
“While carbon-monoxide poisoning incidents are rare, we usually see a rise in the number of occurrences when the weather gets really cold,” said Richard M. Morrow, vice president of customer services for SDG&E. “Often, the cause of carbon-monoxide in a home is due to a problem with the furnace, so we’re urging customers to be safe and get their furnaces inspected by a licensed, qualified professional.”
The utility also warns against using ovens, ranges or outdoor barbecues for home heating. These appliances are not designed for such use and pose a severe and potentially fatal risk of carbon-monoxide poisoning if used for space heating.
SDG&E offers furnace safety checks at no cost to customers, or customers can call a licensed, qualified professional to ensure their appliances are operating properly. To schedule an appointment for a furnace inspection by SDG&E, visit SDG&E’s Web site at www.sdge.com or call toll-free at (800) 411-7343 or (800) 311-7343 in Spanish. Customer service representatives are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to schedule routine and emergency service requests.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that is formed when carbon-based fuels, such as kerosene, gasoline, propane, natural gas, oil, charcoal or wood, are burned with inadequate amounts of oxygen, creating a condition known as incomplete combustion. When incomplete combustion occurs, carbon monoxide is produced, and this can potentially lead to carbon monoxide poisoning to a family.
The early stages of carbon-monoxide poisoning produce unexplained flu-like symptoms, such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath and mental confusion. Since carbon monoxide displaces the oxygen in the blood, prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide can lead to death by asphyxiation.
Signs that may indicate the presence of carbon monoxide:
• A yellow, large and unsteady gas appliance burner flame (with the exception of decorative gas log appliances).
• An unusual pungent odor when the appliance is operating. This may indicate the creation of aldehydes, a by-product of incomplete combustion.
• Unexplained nausea, drowsiness and flu-like symptoms.
What to do if someone suspects carbon monoxide is present in their home:
• If safe to do so, immediately turn off the suspected gas appliance.
• Evacuate the premises and call 911.
• Seek medical attention if anyone in the home experiences possible carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms.
• Contact SDG&E or a licensed, qualified professional immediately to have the appliance inspected.
• Don’t use the suspected gas appliance until it has been inspected, serviced and determined to be safe by SDG&E or a licensed, qualified professional.
How to maintain and use gas appliances safely and efficiently:
• Clean inside the burner compartment of built-in, vented wall furnaces once a month during the heating season to prevent lint build-up.
• Inspect and replace furnace filters on forced-air units or central heating systems according to manufacturer instructions.
• When installing a new or cleaned 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.
• Never store anything near a gas appliance that might interfere with normal appliance airflow.
• Assure that appliance venting is intact and unblocked.
• In higher-altitude areas, where snow can accumulate on rooftops, ensure that gas appliance intake and exhaust vents are clear of obstructions.
• Never use gas ovens, ranges or outside barbeques for space heating.
Carbon-monoxide alarms may provide an extra measure of safety, but they also require routine maintenance such as battery replacement and the unit itself must be replaced periodically per manufacturer’s instructions. Even with alarms in place, regular gas appliance maintenance still is required. Inspection and routine maintenance are still the best defense against accidental carbon-monoxide poisoning from natural gas appliances.
SDG&E is a regulated public utility that provides safe and reliable energy service to 3.4 million consumers through 1.4 million electric meters and more than 840,000 natural gas meters in San Diego and southern Orange counties. The utility’s area spans 4,100 square miles. Exceptional customer service is a priority of SDG&E as it seeks to enhance the region’s quality of life. SDG&E is a subsidiary of Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE), a Fortune 500 energy services holding company based in San Diego.