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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Oklahoma Natural Gas is providing tips on how residential customers can conserve energy and prevent carbon monoxide poisoning as the winter storm’s historically low temperatures cause an increase in natural gas use.

The Oklahoma Natural Gas website addressed the gas usage by businesses, manufacturing plants and residences as winter storm conditions impact the area.

The historically low temperatures are causing a spike in natural gas use and therefore a significant surge in natural gas market prices. Customers’ gas bills will, as a result, be higher.

“Due to the unprecedented, historically low temperatures for an extended period, we are seeing much higher natural gas use and a significant surge in natural gas market prices. While we do not markup the price of natural gas, these events will have an impact on customer bills. At this time, we cannot quantify what the impact will be,” the website states.

ONG provided residential customers the following tips for conserving their gas energy use:

  • Keep warm, not hot : When possible wear additional layers of clothing, consider turning down your thermostat and check your programmable settings.
  • Seal leaks around doors and windows: Apply weatherstripping or caulk to seal gaps and cracks around windows and doors to stop air leaks and prevent energy loss. If that is not an option, you can also cover windows with towels, sheets or plastic to help keep the warm air in your house.
  • Reduce the temperature on your water heater: Set the temperature on your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or put it on the “warm” setting. If your home will be vacant for two days or more, set the dial to the pilot position for even more savings.
  • Close blinds and curtains: This helps keep warm air inside, especially if the sun is not shining.
  • Change or clean filters: A clean filter on your furnace can lower your energy consumption by 5% to 15%. Dirty filters cost more to use and overwork the equipment.
  • Hold off on doing chores: Doing laundry and washing dishes can both use natural gas to heat the water and your dryer. If you can, wait until the extreme cold weather passes to complete these activities. If you cannot wait, use the cold setting where possible.
  • Install foam gaskets on electrical switches and outlets: Electrical switches and outlets can account for up to 10% of your home’s energy loss.

The website also provided the following safety tips for using natural gas energy:

  • Never use your stove or oven for home heating.
  • Make sure nothing obstructs a furnace’s air intake and that vents and flues are intact and unblocked to avoid the potential of carbon monoxide poisoning.   
  • When removing ice and snow in the vicinity of meters, vents or flues, do so carefully so as not to cause damage.
  • Leave cabinet doors open, especially those on exterior walls, to reduce the risk of frozen pipes.
  • Call if you smell a natural gas odor, leave the area immediately and then call 911 and 800-458-4251.

The website warns carbon monoxide can be produced by a natural gas appliance that is not operating efficiently or vented properly

“Carbon monoxide, also called CO, is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas that can make you sick and, in some circumstances, may be deadly. Carbon monoxide is created by the incomplete or improper burning of fuel,” the news release states.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are usually recognized by the following:

  • Yellow flame instead of a blue flame on appliance burners 
  • Black soot around vents, flues, furnace filters, burners or appliance access openings 
  • Headache, dizziness, ringing in the ears, fatigue, increased perspiration, nausea, weakness and vomiting 

Here are some tips to prevent carbon monoxide:

  • Install and maintain a carbon monoxide detector, available at most retail and hardware stores. 
  • Pay attention to the color of the flame on your natural gas appliances – a yellow flame instead of a blue flame is a potential warning sign that the appliance is not operating or venting properly. 
  • Never use a natural gas range or outdoor space heater to heat your home.  
  • Check for proper ventilation of your appliances and chimney flues. 
  • Maintenance is key! Clean or replace your furnace filters regularly and have a qualified contractor inspect your heating equipment and natural gas appliances annually. 

Immediately leave the building you are in and get outside to fresh air if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning. Then call 911 or call your local fire or police department and, if necessary, request medical assistance. 

  • Do not re-enter the building until it has been determined safe by emergency response personnel. 
  • Immediately seek medical assistance for any symptoms, even those you think are minor. 

ONG officials ask that businesses and manufacturing plants across the state reduce their gas usage to the lowest safe operating level.

The website says ONG continuously monitors its pipeline systems and has additional staff working through the weekend and through the duration of the winter storm.