Home Improvement

Hurricane Sandy and Safe Heat

This blog post comes one week and four days after the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy and two days after the restoration of utility power to our Keyport Warehouse/Showroom.

During the extended power outage, hundreds of thousands here in the Tri-State area found that while they could not heat their homes with a furnace regulated by electricity, they could bring some warmth into the house or apartment by boiling filled pots of water on their gas stoves. Further study of this reveals that it may have been a very dangerous idea. Adaptability and ingenuity are admirable traits, but don’t risk your health and safety!

According to multiple university and government publications, the use of a gas stove or oven for a prolonged period in order to heat your home or apartment can produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless toxic gas that can build to lethal levels even in a ventilated area without you knowing it.

An additional drawback to boiling water for heat is the build-up of steam condensation on your walls. Large sections of ceilings, corners, and around windows where the coldest surfaces meet the moist heated air will bead up with condensation and begin to drip. This internal soaking will dry out when normal safe heating is restored to the home, but the areas affected should be washed thoroughly to prevent the growth of mold.

The best and safest way to keep your house warm during a lengthy loss of power is to prepare in advance. Hire a qualified electrician to examine the power requirements of your furnace and recommend and install the correct generator connections for powering it.

This way, with a generator running a safe distance from the house, you’ll be able to make use of your safest source of heat without filling your home with poison gas. If you have a generator, but no way to connect it to your furnace, try to have one or two small ceramic space heaters with built-in fans that can be powered up instead. These small units will make at least a few rooms tolerably warm during freezing weather, but be absolutely SURE you don’t leave one running unattended anywhere in your home.

If you’re in an apartment building and temperatures are dropping to unhealthy and intolerable levels, the wisest choice would be to lock up and leave. Staying at the home of a friend or family member, or at a local emergency shelter will be far healthier than prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures or trying out potentially dangerous methods to heat your apartment.

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