Clear snow from outdoor vents

Recent significant winter snowfall events have prompted Michigan Gas Utilities to remind customers of several potential safety issues.

Customers with high-efficiency furnaces and water heaters that vent through the wall (not into a chimney) should be wary of a buildup of snow or ice around the vent. High-efficiency equipment provides great savings, but a blocked vent could cause the heating system to malfunction by shutting off or, in extreme cases, lead to an accumulation of carbon monoxide in the home. Customers should check the outside vents just to make sure they aren’t covered with snow or ice. Heavy snow and high winds could provide conditions that will result in blocked vents.

Carbon monoxide is an invisible, tasteless, odorless, undetectable poisonous gas that cannot be detected by human senses. Dubbed the “silent killer,” carbon monoxide claims more than 2,000 lives each year and sends more than 40,000 people to the emergency room in the U.S. alone. At high concentrations, carbon monoxide can be fatal within minutes. CO results when there is an improper and/or inefficient burning of natural gas, fuel oil, propane or other heating fuel. Customers who experience flu-like symptoms only when at home should arrange for a carbon monoxide check from their local emergency agency immediately. Customers who aren’t already using a carbon monoxide detector should strongly consider purchasing one.

MGU is also asking customers to be wary of the condition of gas and electric meters. Snow and ice buildup around gas meters could lead to meter damage and a disruption in energy service. In particular, homes and businesses that have snow plowed from driveways, parking lots or access roads, should take care that plow operators do not push wet, heavy snow into gas meters. The meters could become damaged causing service interruptions or, potentially, a natural gas leak.

As the snow melts customers should check to see if icicles are forming above the meters. Large, falling icicles have been know to cause meter damage and potential service interruption if the icicles break and fall into meters.