With temperatures expected to drop in Northern and Central California this week, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) urges customers to be cautious when heating their homes.
Electric heating devices, such as space heaters, are a home fire hazard when not properly used or monitored. Fuel-burning appliances, such as gas furnaces, stoves and water heaters, can increase the risk of carbon monoxide, a toxic gas, when they are not working properly.
"We want our customers to be warm this winter, but most importantly we want them to be safe," Jake Zigelman, Director of Local Customer Experience at PG&E said. "Space heaters should only be used as a supplemental source of heat. They are not intended to replace the home's central heating system and, when not used properly, can create serious safety hazards."
According to the National Fire Protection Association, heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires in the United States and from 2009 to 2013, accounted for 56,000 structure fires per year. Nearly half of these fires occur from December through February. The leading contributing factor to space heater fires is heating equipment too close to objects that can burn, such as furniture, clothing, mattresses or bedding.
PG&E urges customers to focus on safely heating their homes as temperatures dip and offers the following tips:
- Place space heaters on level, hard, nonflammable surfaces, not on rugs or carpets.
- Don't put objects on space heaters or use them to dry clothes or shoes.
- Turn off space heaters when leaving the room or going to sleep.
- Keep all flammable materials at least three feet away from heating sources and supervise children when a space heater or fireplace is being used.
- Never use cooking devices such as ovens or stoves for home heating purposes.
- Install carbon monoxide detectors to warn you if concentration levels are high. As of 2011, all California single-family homes are required to have carbon monoxide detectors. Make sure they are installed near sleeping areas and replace the batteries at least twice a year.
- When using the fireplace to stay warm, make sure the flue is open so that the byproducts of combustion can vent safely through the chimney.
- Never use products inside the home that generate dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, such as generators, barbecues, propane heaters and charcoal.
If customers suspect there is a problem with a natural gas appliance inside their home, they should call PG&E at 1-800-743-5000. A gas service representative will be dispatched to do a thorough inspection.
If you detect carbon monoxide in your home, you should get out immediately and call 911.