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.

“Winter rains and cold fronts are prompting people to turn on their heaters/furnaces for the first time in months. This time of year fire departments respond to an increased number of calls reported as ‘odor of gas inside’ and gas leaks,” says Fire Chief Sam DiGiovanna.”

Many heaters have not been used in months. Heating appliances should be serviced annually to keep them operating safely and efficiently. A licensed heating contractor or Southern California Gas Co. Representative can provide this service for you.

By 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 and smoke detector installed? Check with your local fire department for advice on installing one says DiGiovanna.

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 Co rep.
  • Vacuum and clean regularly in and around the furnace, particularly around the burner compartment to prevent a build-up 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 Co rep 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.

It may be hard for us to understand, but sometimes families don’t realize the danger, and sometimes they decide any risk is better than freezing to death. Fear of the cold can be a powerful thing. Here are four dangerous ways some of the poor keep warm when it is cold:

Space Heaters

A new space heater that is up to code and properly supervised can offer some extra direct heat when needed. Unfortunately, many don’t have the $80-$200 needed per heater, and often make due with older models they have “fixed.” According to Consumer Reports Magazine, Older space heaters “account for one-third of all home-heating fires each year, and more than 80 percent of home-heating fire deaths.”

Using the Oven as a Heat Source

Turning on the oven and leaving the door open is one way some compromised families try to stay warm. Not designed for this purpose, a gas oven can go out, leading to dangerous fumes, and an electric oven can cause burns, especially to children.


Created for use in outdoor grills, inexpensive charcoal briquettes are sometimes used indoors to generate heat. Unfortunately, these materials are made for only outdoor use. Burning them indoors, including in a fireplace can release odorless toxic carbon monoxide fumes leading to death.

Again, the best advice is to contact a licensed qualified heating contractor or Southern California Gas Co. Representative to inspect your furnace. Southern Calif Gas Co. Customer Service: 1 (877) 238-0092

Fire Chief Sam DiGiovanna

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