Safety checks recommended for heating systems as weather turns cold

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A sudden drop in temperatures caught some people off guard and had them scrambling to find heat.

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Zach Boyden-Holmes/Staff
David Barry, a service technician who works for D’Antignac & Merritt Heating & Air, inspects a heat pump outside a residence in North Augusta.

“They wait until they need it (a heater) to turn it on and suddenly realize it doesn’t work,” said Cheryl Wilson, the office manager of D’Antignac & Merritt Heating & Air. “With this weather changing like it is, we’ve been swamped.”

Apparently some people become upset even if their heater does work.

“We get a lot of calls from people who think their furnace is on fire. But when we get there, it’s just burning the dust in the combustion chamber,” said Danny Kuhlman, the special operations chief of Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue.

Kuhlman suggests people open doors or windows the first time they turn on the heater so the smell of burning dust doesn’t become overwhelming. The veteran firefighter said it’s important to have the heater inspected early in the fall before it’s needed. Homeowners with gas heaters also should check for cracks in the combustion chamber or pipes to make sure no carbon monoxide is leaking inside.

Home heating is the main source of carbon monoxide, he said. The odorless, colorless poisonous gas occurs when any fuel – coal, wood, charcoal, oil, kerosene, propane, natural gas – is burned, according to information from the University of Georgia Extension Office. Other appliances such as gas or propane water heaters, clothes dryers, ranges and ovens also produce carbon monoxide, as does engine-powered equipment such as portable generators, cars, lawn mowers and power washers.

Two men in Cobb County, Ga., died Thursday of carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator they were using in their home to keep the heater going, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“Because homes today are built so energy-efficient, they are a lot tighter, so carbon monoxide can build up and the family can get poisoned over a period of time,” Kuhlman said.

In addition to smoke detectors, Kuhlman said that every home with gas appliances needs at least one carbon monoxide detector and that both detectors need fresh batteries.

CARBON MONOXIDE TIPS
  • Never operate a portable generator indoors or in partially enclosed spaces.
  • Place portable generators away from areas that allow outdoor air to come indoors.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors that are battery-operated so they’ll work even in a power outage.
  • Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, nausea, fatigue and dizziness. If you believe you have carbon monoxide poisoning, get medical attention immediately.
 FIRE SAFETY TIPS
  • Inspect heater for cracks or rust.
  • Have fireplaces and chimneys inspected by certified chimney sweep.
  • Practice a family escape plan that includes at least two ways out of every room.
  • Instruct children how to call 911.

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