As temperatures begin to drop, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) urges customers to be mindful of the dangers associated with carbon monoxide (CO). Several tragic cases of CO poisoning occur each year during the winter months as people try to stay warm.
CO is a colorless, tasteless and odorless gas created by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and wood. If unsafe concentrations of CO are not detected, the result can be fatal.
Customers should never use generators, charcoal or barbecue grills inside their house. When using the fireplace to stay warm, make sure the flue is open so the byproducts of combustion can vent safely through the chimney.
Many customers in PG&E’s service area use natural gas furnaces to stay warm. PG&E reminds customers to make sure all natural gas furnaces and appliances inside the house are in proper working order. Natural gas appliances that do not burn properly can produce CO. Customers should inspect the flame on all gas appliances. A blue flame indicates complete combustion and that the appliance is working properly. A lazy, yellow or white flame is a warning sign that the appliance is not burning properly and could be producing CO.
If customers suspect a problem, they should call PG&E immediately at 800-PGE-5000. A gas service representative will be dispatched to do a thorough inspection.
Symptoms of CO poisoning include headaches, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea and convulsions. Because carbon monoxide is hard to detect, someone contracting a mild case of CO poisoning can go to sleep and continue to breathe the gas until severe illness or death occurs. People may also mistake their symptoms for a viral infection such as the flu.
To help prevent cases of CO poisoning, PG&E offers the following tips to keep customers healthy and safe:
• Install a CO detector to warn you if concentrations become dangerously high. As of July, 2011, all California single-family homes are required by law to have one. Place them near sleeping areas, where they can wake you.
• When using the fireplace, make sure the flue is open, and the chimney is venting properly.
• Do not idle cars inside the garage and do not allow snow to block tailpipe emissions when operating a vehicle outdoors.
• Make sure water heaters and other natural gas appliances are properly ventilated. Older appliances and room heaters that are not vented externally should be inspected annually.
• Direct a trained professional to inspect furnaces and other gas appliances. To schedule an inspection with PG&E, call 800-PGE-5000 or visit www.pge.com.
• Never use generators, propane heaters, barbecues or charcoal indoors.
• Ensure that generators are properly installed and operated outdoors. For more generator safety tips, visit www.pge.com/generator.