JACKSON, Mich., Jan. 18, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- With winter sweeping into Michigan, Consumers Energy reminds customers to keep safety in mind by making sure their natural gas meters and gas appliance fresh air intakes and exhaust pipes are free of snow and ice during the cold weather.
When snow is allowed to build up around these areas, it can become compacted and freeze. This can cause damage that interferes with proper operation of the natural gas meter and gas appliances such as furnaces or water heaters. Customers are advised to carefully remove snow by hand and not use a shovel or power snow removal equipment around these areas.
While most gas appliance fresh air intake and exhaust pipes are generally located on the sides of buildings, in manufactured or mobile homes they are most often located on the roof. Customers should use caution if they need to inspect these rooftop pipes.
"It's important that customers keep meters, fresh air vents and exhaust pipes clear, particularly after weather that brings heavy snow and ice buildup," said Michele Kirkland, vice president of energy operations for the utility. "Not only can snow and ice cause furnaces and appliances such as water heaters to stop operating, it can also cause potentially life-threatening carbon monoxide poisoning to develop."
Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas that is colorless, odorless, tasteless and can be produced when appliances aren't operating or venting properly. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning often mimic the flu and include headaches, nausea, fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, and stinging or burning of the eyes. If any of these symptoms are experienced, or if individuals have an audible carbon monoxide detector and it alarms, leave the building or area and contact Consumers Energy, their local natural gas provider or 911.
The best defense against carbon monoxide poisoning is to install an audible alarm that will sound if dangerous levels of carbon monoxide are present.
To help ensure the safety of meter readers, customers are also asked to keep their sidewalks, stairways and gate areas free of snow and ice buildup. A clear path to the meter and a meter that is clearly visible without a build-up of snow and ice will help make meters easier to read and reduce the need for estimating energy use.
Consumers Energy, the principal subsidiary of CMS Energy Corporation (NYSE: CMS), provides natural gas and electricity to nearly 6.8 million of Michigan's 10 million residents in all 68 Lower Peninsula counties.
SOURCE Consumers Energy