SoCalGas - Appliance Safety
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Appliance Safety

 

Overview

Gas appliance maintenance is always the customer's responsibility. Properly caring for appliances helps to keep them operating safely and efficiently. The following are some important tips:

  • Have your gas appliances inspected annually by a licensed, qualified professional or the Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas).
  • Never store rags, mops, paper or other combustibles near any gas appliance.
  • Never store anything near a gas appliance that might interfere with normal appliance airflow.
  • Never store or use flammable products in the same room or near any gas or heat-producing appliances. Flammable products include gasoline, spray paints, solvents, insecticide, adhesives, foggers, varnish, cleaning products and other pressurized containers.

Never use your oven, range top or outdoor barbecue to heat your home because these appliances are not designed for this purpose.

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Carbon Monoxide Warning

To help keep your gas appliances operating safely and efficiently, SoCalGas or a licensed, qualified professional should inspect your gas appliances every year. Not performing annual maintenance may result in inefficient appliance operation, and in some cases, dangerous exposure to carbon monoxide.

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. In the case of home gas appliances, this can be caused by improper installation, poor maintenance, appliance misuse or failure. Since carbon monoxide displaces the oxygen in the blood, exposure to higher concentrations or prolonged exposure to lower concentrations of carbon monoxide can cause a number of ill effects leading to serious illness and death.

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 you suspect carbon monoxide is present in your 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 SoCalGas at 1-800-427-2200 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 SoCalGas or a licensed, qualified professional.

How to maintain and use gas appliances to prevent carbon monoxide

  • Vacuum around burner compartments, and inspect and replace furnace filters on forced-air units or central heating systems according to manufacturer instructions.
  • Make sure to properly replace the front panels of a forced-air unit or the burner compartment door of a gas wall heater.
  • Never store anything near a gas appliance that might interfere with normal appliance airflow.
  • Assure that appliance venting is intact and unblocked. Have all gas appliances and venting repairs performed by a licensed, qualified professional.
  • In higher altitude areas, where snow can accumulate on rooftops, ensure that gas appliance intake and exhaust vents are clear of obstructions.
  • When using your gas fireplace, make sure the damper is open.
  • Never use your gas oven for space heating.
  • Gas appliance maintenance is always the homeowner’s responsibility. However, SoCalGas will perform appliance safety checks upon request.

Carbon monoxide alarms

California's Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act of 2010 requires that all residential properties having a fossil fuel burning appliance, fireplace or attached garage be equipped with an approved carbon monoxide alarm. All single family homes are required to be equipped with a carbon monoxide alarm as of July 1, 2011. All other residential units must have a carbon monoxide alarm by January 1, 2013. Only carbon monoxide alarms that are approved by the California State Fire Marshall and have the Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) Certification may be used. They are available at your local hardware or home improvement stores.

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Furnace Safety

It's important to maintain your furnace for safety and operating efficiency. Follow the tips listed for the type of furnace in your home.

Floor furnace

  • Avoid lint build-up by vacuuming the floor furnace and the area around it regularly.
  • Keep children away from the grill, as it gets very hot.
  • Avoid fires - don't place rugs, furniture or combustible items over or near the grill and do not block the airflow.

Wall furnace

  • Clean inside the burner compartment of built-in, vented wall furnaces once a month during the heating season to prevent lint build-up.
  • Avoid fires. Don't place combustible items near the appliance.

Central gravity furnace and central forced-air heating

  • Keep furnace heat registers free of obstructions.
  • Don't store items nearby that might stop the airflow.
  • Many gas furnaces use air from the room to operate. Lint and dust carried by air, or items stored in or around the furnace can block airflow. In order to operate safely and efficiently, your gas furnace must be kept free of dust and lint build-up and other obstructions stored near the furnace. Never store or use flammable products, such as newspapers, flammable liquids or cleaning products near the furnace.
  • Most forced-air furnaces have a filter that cleans the air before heating and circulating it throughout the home. Inspect your filter monthly for lint build-up during periods of furnace use. Clean or replace the filter if necessary.
  • 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 because doing so may create the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Most newer forced-air furnaces have a safety switch that prevents furnace operation when the filter compartment door/panel is not in place.
  • Note: some older forced-air furnaces do not have a safety switch and can be operated with the filter compartment door/panel off or not properly in place.
  • These older furnaces, when installed in a closet and operated with the panel/door not in place, will circulate carbon monoxide throughout the house.

CAUTION: Unvented gas heaters are unsafe

Using an unvented gas heater in your home is dangerous and a violation of the California Health and Safety Code. These heaters are not approved for use in homes because:

  • Poor operation can result in an accumulation of hazardous fumes.
  • Unless a room heater has enough air from an outside vent or an open window, all of the oxygen in a room can be used up, resulting in serious illness or death.
  • The flames in these heaters may not be fully covered, which could result in burn injuries or fires.

Never use your oven, range or outdoor barbecue to heat your home because these appliances are not designed for this purpose.

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Water Heater Safety

  • All gas appliances have a main burner flame and many also have a pilot flame. Follow these tips to reduce the risk of flammable vapors being ignited by these flames.
  • Water heaters installed in garages must be elevated so the pilot or other source of ignition is a minimum of 18 inches above the floor or installed per local building codes and the manufacturers’ installation instructions.

    • Note: Manufacturers’ labels and/or instruction manuals for new Flammable Vapor Ignition Resistant (FVIR) tank water heaters may not indicate the 18-inch elevation requirement for garage installations. However, applicable codes have been updated to exempt FVIR water heaters in garages from the elevation requirement.
  • Never store or use flammable products such as gasoline, paint, thinner or cleaning products near or in the same room as any gas or heat-producing appliance.
  • Earthquakes can cause improperly secured water heaters to move or topple. To help prevent this, strap it firmly to the wall studs in two places – the upper and lower one-third of the tank – with heavy bolts and metal strapping. Be sure to place the lower strap at least four inches above the thermostat controls. Kits are often available at your local hardware store and we recommend having a licensed, qualified professional install it for you.
  • Lowering your temperature setting can prevent scalding accidents and lower your energy costs. Water temperatures above 125° F can cause severe burns or even death. Households with small children, disabled or elderly persons may require a 120° F or lower thermostat setting to prevent contact with "HOT" water. Please refer to your water heater manufacturer's recommendation for safe water heater temperature settings.
  • If you need to replace your water heater, check for available rebates on qualifying high-efficiency models. Visit our Rebates section for more information.

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Dryer Safety

Follow these safety precautions to reduce the risk of fire or injury to persons:

  • Always vent gas dryers outdoors.
  • Do not exhaust gas dryers into an attic, chimney, wall, ceiling or concealed space of a building.
  • Use only approved metal vent ducting material. Plastic and vinyl materials are not approved for gas dryers.
  • Inspect the exhaust duct regularly to ensure that it has not become crushed, kinked or otherwise restricted.
  • Keep area around the exhaust opening and adjacent surrounding areas free from accumulation of lint.
  • Periodically clear the interior of the exhaust duct. This work should be performed by a licensed, qualified professional.

Range and Oven Safety

  • Keep range top area clean of grease. Grease is flammable and excessive build-up may result in a fire.
  • Do not use the range top or stove to heat the home.
  • Do not install aluminum foil in the oven or range top to avoid restricting exhaust vents which may result in carbon monoxide poisoning.

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Natural Gas Fireplace Logs

  • To help avoid serious accidents, the damper must be kept open on a permanent basis. Use the damper lock included with the gas log assembly kit.

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Attic Insulation Safety

Attic insulation can help lower your energy bills. Improperly installed insulation, however, can create a fire hazard. Be sure to use the following tips for new and existing attic insulation:

  • Keep insulation away from all heat sources, furnaces, water heaters, recessed light fixtures, fan motors, doorbell transformers, chimneys, flues and vents.
  • Install a barrier made of non-combustible material around the above heat sources.
  • Keep insulation away from all bare wires or “knob and tube” wiring.
  • Keep the air supply openings to the forced-air furnace free of any insulation.
  • Leave attic or eave vents uncovered.
  • Periodically check attic for insulation movement.
  • Contact a state-licensed insulation contractor if you have any questions about proper installation.
  • If you need to upgrade your attic or wall insulation, visit our Rebates section for more information.

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Appliance Safety Recalls

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) periodically announces safety recall programs for certain gas appliances and equipment. Information about product recalls that may affect your appliances is available at the CPSC website * or by calling the CPSC at 1-800-638-2772. TDD/TTY 1-800-638-8270.

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*By clicking the link, you will leave www.socalgas.com and transfer directly to the website of a third party provider which is not part of the Southern California Gas Company. The Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy on that website will apply.

 
Updated 12/2011

Report Any Pipe Damage

Evacuate the area and from a safe location, call SoCalGas at

1-800-427-2200

to report any pipeline damage. No damage is too small to report.