For immediate release, Omaha, Neb.--With extremely cold weather expected this week, Metropolitan Utilities District encourages customers to follow these tips to stay warm and help ensure the safe and reliable use of home heating equipment:
- Have natural gas appliances, heating system, chimney and venting systems inspected every year by a qualified heating contractor. In extreme cold weather, your heating unit may have difficulty maintaining the temperature set on your thermostat based on the system capacity and other factors. If your equipment is not functioning properly, contact your heating contractor.
- Use a clean filter. Standard furnace filters need to be cleaned or changed more often during the heating season. Check the owner’s manual.
- Gas appliances and furnaces need fresh air for proper combustion. Combustion products need to be vented to the outdoors. Keep flues, ducts and vents attached to appliances and heating systems in good condition and clear of obstructions.
- Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning can result from a malfunctioning heating unit or other fuel-burning appliance, as well as from a blocked chimney. CO poisoning is more common during cold weather, when heating units are operating and home windows and doors are closed tightly. CO is a colorless, odorless gas. Symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea and dizziness. Signs that an appliance may be producing CO include condensation on walls and windows, house pets becoming sluggish, plants dying and residents in the home suffering flu-like symptoms or feeling unusually tired. Individuals who believe they may be experiencing symptoms of CO poisoning should immediately seek fresh air and call 911.
- Make sure you have working smoke and CO detectors and the batteries powering them are fresh.
- Do not use gas ovens to heat a room or for any purpose other than cooking. It could be dangerous and may damage the appliance.
- Teach children about safety around all household appliances.
- Natural gas originally has no odor and is invisible. For your safety, we add a harmless chemical called mercaptan so you can detect a gas leak. Most people describe the smell as rotten eggs or a skunky odor.
- Smell gas? Leave fast - If you smell an odor or know there is a damaged gas line, do not use any matches, candles, lighters, flashlights, motors or appliances. Don’t even use the light switch, telephone or cellular phone. Get everyone out of the building or area. From a safe location, call our 24-hour emergency line at 402.554.7777 or 911. There is no charge to check gas leaks.
Other cold weather tips
When water freezes, it expands. You can plan ahead to prevent the cost and mess of frozen pipes or a broken water line during winter months. Here are some things you can do:
- Allow heat to circulate around meters and pipes located near outside walls, in uninsulated cabinets or other enclosed areas. Fill cracks in doors, windows and walls near water meters and pipes.
- Where previous freeze-ups have been a problem, a slight trickle of water from the faucet may keep a pipe from freezing.
- If you have a hydrant located on your property, do not pile snow up or around it. Clear an area around the hydrant so fire fighters can quickly find it in case of an emergency.
Planning to be away for an extended period?
- Keep the furnace on, but at a lower setting.
- Have someone briefly run all faucets daily to reduce the risk of frozen pipes.
- Turn off your water at the Stop Box, meter or where it enters the building. This will reduce the likelihood of further damage from running water if the system is not drained and freezing occurs.
- Drain all pipes, toilets and water lines to be completely safe.
Gas meter tips:
- Your outside gas meter needs to be clear of snow on and around it. When possible, use a broom or brush, instead of a shovel to clear snow off regulators, meters, associated piping, tubing, gauges or other system equipment. This will help our meter readers when they read your meter and also for safety.
- Know the location of your gas meter.
- Keep it clear for emergency responses.
- Keep shrubbery trimmed around your gas meter.
- Do not enclose your meter.
- Do not tie pets to or hang objects on your gas meter or piping.
About Metropolitan Utilities District of Omaha
M.U.D. provides safe, reliable, and cost-effective natural gas and water services to our community. We serve safe drinking water to 211,263 customers in the metropolitan Omaha area and maintain nearly 27,000 hydrants for fire protection. As the fifth largest public gas utility in the United States, we also serve natural gas to 227,106 customers. We are a public utility and proud to be customer-owned. The District is governed by a board of seven directors, elected by our customer-owners. Visit www.mudomaha.com for more information.