With the recent blast of snow and frigid temperatures, some of our customers have recently experienced furnace problems because of snow and ice buildup. It’s a good reminder to check your meters, furnace fresh air intakes and exhaust pipes to make sure they are clear of snow and ice. If snow builds up around these areas, it can become compacted and freeze, causing damage that interferes with the proper operation of a natural gas meter or furnace.
If you do find snow buildup around these areas, you should carefully clear it away by hand, not with power snow removal equipment. Most fresh air intake and exhaust pipes are generally located on the side of a building, in manufactured or mobile homes they are generally located on the roof.
While snow and ice buildup can cause furnaces and appliances such as water heaters to stop operating, it can also cause potentially life-threatening carbon monoxide poisoning to develop. Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas that is colorless, odorless, tasteless and can be produced when appliances aren’t operating or venting properly. The best defense against carbon monoxide poisoning is to install an audible alarm that will sound if dangerous levels of carbon monoxide are present.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning often mimic the flu and include headaches, nausea, fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, and stinging or burning of the eyes. If any of these symptoms are experienced, or if you have an audible carbon monoxide detector and it alarms, leave the building or area and contact Consumers Energy, your local natural gas provider or 911.
It’s also important to keep sidewalks, stairways and gate areas free of snow and ice buildup. A clear path to the meter and a meter that is clearly visible without a buildup of snow and ice will help make it easier to read the meter and reduce the need for estimating energy use.