Gas furnaces emit carbon monoxide, a deadly and stealthy gas that can silently kill you and other members of your household. It is poisonous when inhaled and is odorless and colorless. Clean and efficiently burning furnaces produce only very low and innocuous amount of carbon monoxide; well functioning gas furnaces are not inherently dangerous. However, dirty and inefficiently burning gas furnaces can produce a high and deadly amount of carbon monoxide. All types of furnaces, naturally, are also be fire hazards. The temperature around the furnace can get very high, capable of igniting substances inside the furnace itself, in contact with the furnace, and even things around the immediate area.

Many newer furnaces come with a sensor that will automatically shut off the furnace when it detects an abnormally high level of carbon monoxide or heat. Older furnaces probably do not have this function, however. Regardless, it’s important to be safe in maintaining and using your furnace while heating your home in the cold weather.

Furnace Safety

  • Have your furnace cleaned and checked every year by a heating professional. It would be ideal to do this right before the fall and winter months so that you are sure it’s safe and ready to go as soon as it gets cold.
  • Never store anything combustible near your furnace. This includes paint thinners and gasoline, obviously, but also rugs, furniture, paper, sawdust, and plants (like christmas trees).
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector in your home and test it every month.
  • While you’re at it, test your smoke alarms as well
  • Change your furnace filter regularly (at least 3 or 4 times a year)
  • The area around your furnace should be clean, open, and free of any obstructions.
  • Clean the burner area of the furnace clean. This is the most common fire hazard when dealing with furnaces.
  • Make sure the front panel is properly secured in place before turning the furnace on.
  • Regularly vaccum the area around your furnace to prevent lint buildup.
  • Talk to your children about the danger of the furnace so that they know to stay away from it.

Even if you’ve used a furnace to warm your house for many years without any problems, remember that many of these hazards are things that build up over the years. And sometimes problems simply stem from the age and amount of use of the furnace. Many people are unaware that these dangers exist and therefore have no way of taking precautions against them. Even if you do know all of this information, reminders never hurt.

Share this with your friends and family who use furnaces in the winter so that we all stay safe and warm during the cold months.