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Know these furnace safety tips for winter

By: Bria Brown | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published November 16, 2016

 Experts say that homeowners should give their furnace a tuneup at least every other year.

Experts say that homeowners should give their furnace a tuneup at least every other year.

Shutterstock image

METRO DETROIT — As fall transitions to winter, residents should be aware of natural gas safety and know energy-efficient tips to stay warm throughout the season. 

In a news release from Consumers Energy Nov. 7, the most important tip the utility shared was how to identify a possible gas leak. 

“Signs can include a distinctive ‘rotten egg’ smell, a blowing or hissing sound, bubbling in wet areas, dead or discolored vegetation in an otherwise green area, or flames if a leak has ignited.” 

Consumers Energy’s tips to deal with a possible gas leak include:

• Leave the area immediately and go to a safe location. Call Consumers Energy at (800) 477-5050 and dial 911.

• Do not try to locate the leak’s source. 

• Do not use an open flame, matches or lighters. Do not use anything that could cause a spark. Do not start nearby vehicles.

• Do not re-enter the building until a Consumers Energy employee says it is safe. 

Tony Contrera, owner of Mr. Furnace in Center Line, said every homeowner needs a tuneup for their furnace. 

“Everyone should get, if not every year, a bi-yearly tuneup,” 

Furnace tuneups include a 21-point heating inspection, a carbon monoxide test and a visual crack inspection. 

According to Contrera, tuneups can vary in price from $69 to $129. 

Contrera also said furnace filters should be changed regularly — at least once a month during heating season. 

Dan Turowski, co-owner of Aladdin Heating and Cooling serving a large portion of the metro Detroit area, said danger can lie with older home furnaces. 

“Some of the older furnaces are potentially more dangerous because there’s less safeties on them to protect people, and they normally burn more fuel,” Turowski said. 

Turowski said residents may have a cracked heat exchanger and not know it. 

“Even if it’s running fine, it may be leaking exhaust in your house,” he said.   

Bill Sims, owner of Sims Preventive Maintenance in Southfield, said that when residents turn on their furnaces for the first time during heating season, there will be a burning smell. 

“When you turn on your furnace for the first time during heating season, there will be a burning smell in the house, and it’ll usually last maybe around 30 minutes. It will eventually dissipate. That’s normal,” said Sims. 

Sims also recommended doing cycles with the furnace to make sure it’s operating properly.

“Set your thermostat and let it go through a couple cycles. Does it come on and off? Does it maintain the temperature in the house? Then you can go back in the basement to see if you hear any strange noises coming from the furnace, like squeaking; then you’re more than likely to have a bad motor,” said Sims.

While plenty of homeowners use their basements as storage rooms, furnaces must be able to breathe, according to Sims. 

“There is a flame in all furnaces, and it is a pretty big flame, so you want to make sure you don’t have anything combustible around the furnace. I would say (to keep things) at least 3 feet away from the furnace,” said Sims. 

For more Consumers Energy tips, visit