Home furnaces work overtime in chill|
|The frigid conditions are making home heating systems work overtime, and that’s leading to some extra hours for furnace technicians and city firefighters as well.|
According to Dan Jahnke of City Gas Company, and Antigo Fire Chief Jon Petroskey, the long spell of below-zero temperatures is taxing heating systems and leading to technical and safety concerns.
“Furnaces are running a lot,” Jahnke said. “And with the high-efficiency models being used today, if the vents get buried in the snow, the unit will not work.”
Jahnke said that there are several vents that homeowners should check. Most know to keep the exhaust pipe clear of the snow, but the gas meter must also be dug out, since it contains a vent that regulates the natural gas pressure going into the system.
“They can’t be buried in the snow,” Jahnke said. “They need to breath to work properly. Otherwise, it can malfunction and put too high a pressure into your home, which would blow out the pilot lights.”
From a safety standpoint, a poorly operating system—or one with a cracked heat exchanger—can lead to a build-up of carbon monoxide within a home, and that can be deadly.
“We always get an increase in carbon monoxide calls during cold weather,” Petroskey said.
State statutes require all homes to have carbon monoxide detectors, vital to detect the colorless, odorless gas that can build up within a home.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include sleepiness, headache, nausea and confusion, and it’s nothing to take lightly, Petroskey said. He urged those whose detectors are sounding, or who are experiencing symptoms, to call 9-1-1 and exit the home immediately.
There are other heating concerns as well, Jahnke said. With what he called a “record sent-out” of gas, the company has been fielding calls about furnace problems that they usually refer to heating contractors. Issues such as burned out ignitors are becoming common.
Jahnke warned customers about using the increasingly popular ventless heaters—which are designed for garages, workshops and sheds—in the home. The heaters recirculate air from within a room, not relying on an outside source, and as that air supply becomes exhausted, improper combustion can result.
“Ventless heaters are not allowed in homes on the City Gas system,” he said.
Meanwhile, the cold weather is creating concerns for homeowners even with perfectly working furnaces and clear vents.
Record amounts of natural gas are being burned for heat and electricity — and it’s so cold that drillers are struggling to produce enough to keep up with the high demand.
Friday, the price rose within a whisper of $5 per 1,000 cubic feet, the highest level since June 2010. It’s gained 25 percent in the past two weeks.
Natural gas is used by half the nation’s households for heating, making it the most important heating fuel.
Natural gas and electric customers are sure to see somewhat higher rates in the coming months, but shouldn’t experience sharp increases because natural gas and electric utilities often employ financial strategies that protect residential customers from price spikes.
Dan Jahnke of City Gas Company makes sure a high-efficient furnace vent and meter are free of snow.
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