There are a lot of benefits to using a natural gas appliance, namely the fact they cost less to run than their electrically powered counterparts, they are more reliable (meaning you do not have to worry about losing your hot water and stove during a blackout), and they work just as well and as powerfully as their electrically powered counterparts. However, if you want to keep those gas appliances working safely and efficiently, then you need to take some precautions. In our earlier article on gas appliances, we touched briefly on some of these precautions, but we figured it deserved its own post.
The most important piece of advice when it comes to gas appliances is to get it checked around once a year (at least, you probably should get it check more often if you feel like something is wrong with the appliance). So, give a call to whoever installed the gas appliance, and see if they do yearly maintenance, if not, you will have to find another licenced professional to come and do a checkup on your gas appliances. It is essential that the inspection be done by a licenced professional, some may not use properly licenced inspectors, which would put you and your family at risk. What will the licenced professional actually do to your gas appliance during these checkups? Well, they will likely clean out the ventilation system of the appliance, they will also check to make sure none of the internal components need to be replaced, the inspection will also make sure that your gas appliances are in line with relevant codes and laws governing the use of gas appliances. They can be a bit of a hassle, but yearly checkups are definitely a must when you have a gas appliance.
Now this may seem like strange advice, but it is very important none the less. When using a natural gas appliance, the flame that is emitted should always be blue, not yellow or orange. If the appliance is emitting a flame that is yellow or orange, then do not use the appliance, turn it off, and call a professional to come look at it. Why exactly? Well, when a natural gas flame is burning blue that means it has achieved “complete combustion” which means it is burning at just under 2000 degrees Celsius. When the natural gas flame is yellow or orange it means that the flame is only burning at around 1000 degrees Celsius. A yellow or orange flame means that there is some soot in the flame. If you see a yellow or orange flame coming from your gas appliance, it means two things. One some debris (dust or soot) is blocking the burner and preventing it from being as hot as it needs to be; because the burner is not working at full capacity, it needs to work harder, meaning it uses more energy, which means you have to spend more money to run the appliance. Second, it means that there is the potential that your gas appliance may be releasing harmful carbon monoxide in the air. The only exception are gas powered fireplaces, which will always produce a yellow or orange flame.
Both external and internal intake areas must always be kept clean and clear. Dust and other debris can easily get into a gas appliance’s vents, where it will settle and become a fire hazard. For example, natural gas furnaces are especially susceptible to dust and other debris (like lint), and the filter will need to be cleaned monthly. If the intake of a gas appliance is blocked, it can lower the overall efficiency of the appliance, meaning it will cost more to run than it should (not to mention the obvious safety hazard). So, make sure you keep the intakes and vents on a natural gas appliance clear and clean (and always make sure that during the year inspection, the inspector checks the vents and intakes). In colder climates people generally have to worry about snow or ice blocking intakes, but that usually is not a problem here, but other outdoor hazards could potentially block intakes, so make sure you do a monthly check to make sure any external intakes are clear of environmental hazards.
Never, under any circumstances, store flammable materials near a natural gas appliance. So, do not store papers, aerosol cans, chemicals, or anything else of that sort neat a natural gas appliance. Chemicals are especially dangerous, because certain chemicals can give off fumes, which could potentially be ignited by the flame given off by a natural gas appliance. Furthermore, avoid “crowding” natural gas appliances, or in other words, do not stack a bunch of boxes up against the natural gas appliance. Now this is not meant to scare you, you do not have to worry that your natural gas appliance is suddenly going to be responsible for a house fire, but when dealing with fire and natural gas, it always pays to be cautious.
This applies only to gas powered water heaters. If you have a gas-powered water heater, you will want to avoid turning the temperature up on the water heater, as this could result in you or someone else being scalded by overly hot water (in general you should avoid fiddling with the temperature on your water heater, whether you are raising or lowering the temperature). Gas water heaters have to be set at a precise temperature to prevent the growth of harmful Legionella bacteria, which can lead to legionnaires disease (49 degrees Celsius is the lowest a water heater can be set, while still being hot enough to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria). If you find the water in your house is too hot, then talk to a plumber about getting anti-scald devices installed.