When it’s cold outside, UniSource gas customers expect safe, reliable service from us to heat their homes. While natural gas is a safe, clean and efficient energy source, there are five things you can to stay safe and warm this winter.

1. Test detectors and change batteries.

Check your smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors annually to see if they’re working by testing them and then installing fresh batteries as needed. A CO detector near your gas water heater or furnace can alert your family to the presence of CO, an odorless, poisonous gas that can build up in your home.

Kevin Thomas, UniSource Safety Specialist, recommends picking a memorable day every year to change the batteries, such as New Year’s Day. “It’s a once a year inspection, so put it on your calendar for the same day every year so you won’t forget,” he said, “and make sure you have some 9-volt batteries on hand.”

2. Unclutter areas.

Always keep potentially flammable materials – such as brooms, newspaper, rags, wood products, paint or thinners – away from gas water heaters and furnaces. Keeping a clear area around gas appliances also allows better airflow for improved furnace performance and efficiency.

3. Inspect annually.

Fireplaces and wood-burning stoves should have unrestricted venting to the outside to prevent CO buildup in your home. Have your fireplace and wood stove inspected and cleaned annually by a professional to prevent CO leaks and chimney fires. “You really should have all your gas appliances, including water heaters, inspected annually to make sure they’re properly vented,” added Thomas.

4. Keep your meter clear.

Keep the area around your gas meter clear of snow and ice. This allows UniSource employees to access your meter, if necessary. Snow buildup around your meter could block its regulator, which could send gas back into your home or block gas flow so that appliances don’t work properly.

Gently remove snow and ice from you meter using your hand or a broom. Never use a hard object like a shovel, which could damage the meter. Prevent melting water from dripping on your meter, which could damage the meter if it refreezes. If ice buildup occurs, contact UniSource instead of trying to dislodge the ice yourself.

5. Change your furnace filters regularly.

Dirty, clogged filters restrict airflow, make your furnace work harder and can lead to breakdowns – something you don’t want when it’s cold outside. Change your filters regularly – at least quarterly, but even monthly with heavy furnace use. This improves airflow, efficiency and indoor air quality.

If you suspect a gas leak, leave your home immediately and call 911 and UniSource – day or night – at 1-877-837-4968 and choose the emergency option.