DEAR BARRY: We have begun shopping for a home, and all the ones we see have gas appliances. Our current home uses electricity for the stove, forced-air heat, clothes dryer and water heater. My contractor says that gas is safe, but my wife is afraid we might blow ourselves up. –William
DEAR WILLIAM: Blowing yourselves up in a home with gas fixtures is as rare as electrocuting yourself in a home that is all-electric. Either one can take place, but the likelihood is too slim to warrant fear or concern.
However, when buying a home with gas fixtures, there are two ways to protect yourself from potentially hazardous conditions:
1. Be sure to hire a qualified home inspector to evaluate the general condition and operability of the water heater, the furnace, the kitchen range, the fireplace, etc. A competent inspector will consider numerous safety-related aspects of these fixtures, including fire clearances, combustion air supply, exhaust venting, gas connections, flame patterns, fixture damage, and much more.
2. Have the gas company perform a routine safety evaluation of all gas-burning fixtures before you complete the purchase of the home. The gas company technician will ensure proper adjustment of the burners and will test for leaks and for carbon monoxide. A gas company inspection is advised not only when you purchase a home, but as an annual check-up procedure for ongoing home safety assurance.
Finally, be sure to place one or more carbon monoxide detectors in your new home. Unlike smoke alarms, they are not yet required in most areas but are strongly recommended. Carbon monoxide is an odorless but deadly gas. Fortunately, it is an avoidable hazard if your home is equipped with an approved device.
The majority of homes in North America are heated by gas, rather than electricity, because gas is far more economical to use. When gas fixtures are properly installed and routinely maintained, they are safe and trouble-free.
DEAR BARRY: My heating system is a gas forced-air furnace, installed in the attic. It works very well, but one thing about it is very annoying. When I turn off the thermostat, I want the thing to turn off. But it keeps on blowing for several minutes. Who should I call to fix this: the gas company or a heating contractor? –Matilda
DEAR MATILDA: Your furnace operates as it should. From what you describe, no repairs are needed. If the blower turned off immediately, you would definitely have a problem. Here’s the way the system works:
When you turn on your thermostat, the burner in your furnace ignites but the blower remains off until the interior of the furnace becomes sufficiently heated — usually about 150 degrees.
The burner remains on until your home is sufficiently heated or until you turn down the thermostat. However, when the flame goes out, the blower remains on until the inside of the furnace is sufficiently cooled. This helps to prolong the longevity of internal components.