With winter upon us natural gas customers are reminded to keep their gas meters free of ice and snow to prevent the potential for hazardous natural gas pressure buildup in their homes.

The accumulation of ice and snow on or around natural gas meters can lead to a dangerous natural gas buildup inside a house or other buildings. Melting snow and ice on roofs and in trees can drip on meters, then refreeze, increasing the potential for a meter malfunction. Appliance vents, often located on a home’s roof, should also be kept clear in order to operate properly.

The natural gas meter’s regulator vent is especially vulnerable to plugging any time there is a combination of snow and ice buildup and fluctuating temperatures. A plugged vent can adversely affect the operation of the gas pressure regulator, resulting in a potentially hazardous condition by preventing the flow of natural gas.

Gently remove snow or ice from the gas meter and any associated piping and the roof line above the meter. Carefully shovel around the meter and clear the meter itself by hand. Avoid using any sharp tool, shovels or snow blowers on or near the meter and piping. Also maintain a clean path to and from the meter to allow easy access in the event of an emergency.

Snowplow operators are reminded to not plow snow into or around gas meters, as this could damage the meters or piping, and possibly cause a dangerous situation. Annual inspections of natural gas appliances and venting systems is recommended since it’s possible home venting systems, such as an outdoor air intake vent to a fuel-burning appliance, can become packed with snow or ice.

Customers are reminded that if they smell natural gas, a bad smell typically described as rotten egg or sulfur-like, in their homes to leave the house immediately and to follow these other important safety precautions:

  • Don’t turn lights on or off or use any other electrical switches, including garage door openers, under any circumstances.
  • Don’t open any windows or doors other than the ones you pass through on your way out.
  • Don’t use a cell phone or any other phone while still in the house; go to a neighbor’s house or other safe place away from your home to call for help, or 911 in an emergency.
  • Don’t return to the home until a safety expert such as a utility company employee or firefighter says it’s safe to do so.
  • Before removing snow from rooftops or trees, always first look up to find any overhead power line and then keep yourself and any tool you’re using a minimum of 10 feet away. Assume all power lines are energized and therefore dangerous.
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Westby Times editor

Dorothy Robson is editor of the Westby Times. Contact her at 608-637-5625.

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