In order to keep your natural gas appliances operating safely and efficiently, it's important to perform regular maintenance and repairs. While maintaining your natural gas appliances is ultimately your responsibility, we'd like to offer the following appliance safety and maintenance tips to help keep you safe – and your appliances working properly.
General Appliance Safety Tips
The following tips apply to the safety and maintenance of ALL natural gas appliances:
- Have your natural gas appliances inspected yearly by a qualified professional or SoCalGas®.
- Never store items near a natural gas appliance that might interfere with normal appliance airflow.
- Never store or use highly flammable products in the same room as any natural gas or heat-producing appliances. These products include gasoline, spray paints, solvents, insecticide, adhesives, foggers, varnish, cleaning products and other pressurized containers.
- Never store ordinary combustibles such as rags, mops or paper on or near an appliance.
- Never use your oven, range top or outdoor barbecue to heat your home because these appliances are not designed for this purpose and can be a safety hazard.
Natural Gas Furnace Safety and Maintenance
Perform regular maintenance on your furnace to ensure that it operates safely and efficiently. Find the type of furnace you have from the following options for furnace safety tips:
- 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.
- Clean inside the burner compartment of built-in, vented wall furnaces once a month during the heating season to prevent lint build-up.
Central Gravity Furnace and Central Forced-air Heating
- Many natural gas furnaces use air from the room to operate. Lint and dust carried by air can block airflow. In order to operate safely and efficiently, your natural gas furnace must be free of dust and lint build-up.
- Most forced-air furnaces have a filter that cleans the air before heating and circulating it throughout your 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 reinstall the front-door panel of the furnace properly so it fits snugly.
- Never use your furnace without the front-door panel in place because you may risk carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Most newer forced-air furnaces have a furnace safety switch that prevents furnace operation when the filter compartment door/panel is not in place.
- 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 door/panel not in place, may circulate carbon monoxide throughout the house.
CAUTION: Unvented Natural Gas Heaters are Unsafe
Using an unvented natural gas heater in your home is dangerous and a violation of the California Health and Safety Code. These heaters aren't 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.
Water Heater Safety and Maintenance
All natural 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.
Storing Flammable Products
Never store or use flammable products such as gasoline, paint, thinner or cleaning products near or in the same room as your water heater.
Elevate Garage Water Heaters
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. This is because applicable codes have been updated to exempt FVIR water heaters in garages from the elevation requirement.
Secure Heaters for Earthquakes
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 qualified professional install it for you.
Lower Your Temperature Setting
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. If you live with small children, or disabled or elderly persons, you 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 temperature settings.
If you need to replace your water heater, check our available rebates on qualifying high-efficiency models.
Dryer Safety and Maintenance
Follow these safety precautions to reduce the risk of a fire or injury:
- Always vent your natural gas dryer outdoors.
- Don't exhaust natural 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 natural gas dryers.
- Inspect the exhaust duct regularly to ensure that it hasn't become crushed, kinked or otherwise restricted.
- Periodically clear the interior of the exhaust duct. This work should be performed by a qualified professional.
- Never store or use flammable products such as gasoline, paint, thinner or cleaning products near or in the same room as your dryer.
Range and Oven Safety and Maintenance
- Keep your range top area clean of grease. Excessive grease build-up can result in a fire.
- Don't install aluminum foil in the oven or range top. This can restrict exhaust vents which can result in carbon monoxide poisoning.
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 natural gas log assembly kit.
Attic Insulation Safety and Maintenance
Although attic insulation can help lower your energy bills, improperly installed insulation 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 approved 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 your attic or eave vents uncovered.
- Periodically check your attic for insulation movement.
- Contact a state-licensed insulation contractor if you have any questions about proper installation.
Appliance Safety Recalls
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) periodically announces safety recall programs for certain natural 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.