How To Keep Your Home Warm During an Outage

It’s winter in the midwest, and you know what that means: severe storms and inconvenient power outages!

When these storm systems hit us in the bitter cold, the threat of losing power—and heat to our homes—can become dire. Make sure to read these tips, so you’re not left in a dangerous situation in the coming months.

Put Safety First

While sometimes candles are the only thing you can use to provide light in your home, lighting too many puts your home at risk of catching fire. Think ahead by investing in small, portable heaters! Be sure to pay attention to whether or not the heater is battery-powered. Even if you have a home generator, it would be wise to have battery-powered or propane-powered heaters so that you don’t use more of your generator’s power than you have to.

It’s also smart to make sure that you have a CO2 detector installed, so that it can protect you from the gaseous fumes you’ll likely be emitting in your home.

Create Natural Warmth

Once you lose power, your home will start losing heat through openings like windows, doors, and crawlspaces. The speed of this heat loss will increase depending on the quality of your insulation. Prevent this from happening by making sure that your openings are sealed and that you have sufficient insulation to keep your home as warm as possible.

It’s also smart to make sure that every member of your family has a good, heavy winter coat. We’d also suggest investing in some battery-powered heating blankets, which are expensive but worth it in dire circumstances.

Invest in a Generator

You never need a generator until you NEED a generator. Protect your family by thinking ahead on this one. We give you all our best advice for picking out a generator that’s best for your home here.

Put BNG Heating & Cooling on Speed Dial

In case of an emergency, you know that our team will be prepared and ready to take on whatever problems you’re facing! Our 24/7 emergency service number is (812) 858-4000. Save it and call us when you need help!

Carbon Monoxide Poisioning Prevention and Safety

The awareness of carbon monoxide (CO) causes and hazards is slowly growing, but the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate 430 people in the U.S. die each year from accidental poisoning. The worst part is that this tragedy is totally preventable, as long as you know what to look out for. In this post, we’re going to cover exactly what CO is, the symptoms of CO2 poisoning to look out for, and what you can do to prevent it from happening in your home.

What is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide, or CO, is an odorless, colorless and toxic gas. It’s created in small quantities in the natural world, but most commonly, it’s created when there isn’t enough oxygen to form carbon dioxide (CO2), like when fuel isn’t completely burned. Incomplete fuel burning usually happens when operating a stove or appliances that rely on internal combustion, like a generator, a car’s engine, or a furnace, in an enclosed area.

While the hazards of heat sources, like potential fire and burns are well-known, the hazards of CO are less well-known. People who are unaware of CO’s dangers may use appliances that produce fumes in an enclosed space, which can cause poisoning. These people are not necessarily negligent with their use of application, and many are related to usages necessitated by natural disaster. According to the CDC, outages due to weather cause an increase in generator use, which when used incorrectly, can lead to poisoning. After Hurricane Katrina, an estimated 47 deaths occurred due to improper generator use.

What does CO poisoning look like?

Indoor pollution is a huge cause of CO poisoning, and if you suspect someone has been poisoned, there are some symptoms to watch out for:

  • headache
  • weakness
  • dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of consciousness

These symptoms can be especially dangerous if someone is sleeping or intoxicated, because they can appear to be related to those two conditions, rather than CO. If the development of these symptoms is sudden and seemingly unrelated to something else, seek fresh air and help immediately.

How can I prevent CO poisoning?

First, if you suspect someone has been poisoned, call 911 and the American Association of Poison Control Centers at 1 (800) 222-1222.

One of the first steps to preventing CO poisoning is to be aware of this condition, and know what to look for should you suspect it’s occurrence. Luckily, prevention of CO buildup is easy and completely within your control. CO detectors function like your smoke detectors, and will alert you to the presence of toxic levels of CO in your home. Make sure to regularly test your CO detectors. If you’re installing them, place one near each sleeping area, and at least one on each level of your home. Connect them all, so if one detector goes off, they will all go off, and each member of your family will be alerted to the presence of CO.

Although CO detectors are widely available at many retail stores, BNG recommends the Kidde CO detector, which detects CO and warns you at a much lower CO level than discount store models. It also has a digital read-out so you can see what the level is and what the highest recorded level has been, even if it is within “Safe” limits. This robust unit uses AC power and has a ten-year life on the backup battery and a 10 year warranty. At just $99 (or less than $10 per year) it provides great peace-of-mind that you won’t be unaware if dangerous CO is present in your home.

If your CO detectors go off, get outdoors or to an area where you can access fresh air, like a door or window. Once you’re sure each member of your family is present, call for help. Stay near the fresh air area.

If you must use a generator, heater, grill, lantern, or fireplace, use it only in a well-ventilated area. Never use a grill or generator indoors.

During snowy weather, make sure your dryer, furnace, stove and fireplace vents are clear of snow, which can trap smoke and fumes.

Get your furnace checked annually by a technician trained to spot areas of leakage or combustion chamber corrosion! Many people forget the fact that their furnace creates heat through a combustion chamber. Over time, the chamber can corrode, and the exhaust flue, which moves CO outside of the home, can leak or have holes. A trained HVAC technician, like those at BNG, can spot these potential hazards and make repairs to prevent the spread of CO into your home. The best solution here is prevention, so schedule your furnace maintenance annually, and ideally, before we get into heavy-use furnace season.

For more information on CO safety, you can visit the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website. For annual furnace inspection and maintenance, you can call BNG at 812.858.4000 to schedule an appointment.

HVAC Preventive Maintenance: Worth a Pound of Cure

They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and no where does that ring truer than when you’re getting ready to send your child back to school. You’ll make sure they have the supplies they need, make sure they’re getting a good night’s sleep, and that they have a healthy breakfast before they leave. All of the planning and preparation that goes into a new year and new morning routine for your whole family saves your schedule and your sanity as you move into the school year. The same can be said about taking care of your heating & air conditioning (HVAC) unit.

We most often notice when they’re not functioning, “Honey, why is it 90 degrees in here?!”, it can be difficult to notice when all they really need is a little love, rather than a full-blown replacement. That’s where BNG wants to help you out – to save your schedule, sanity, and your checkbook – as we move into fall.

An ounce of prevention…

Your ideal HVAC maintenance plan will depend on two things: how sophisticated your system is, and the type of environment it’ll be working in. A school will need a much larger, much more powerful system than your home, for example, because it’ll be required to function at it’s peak during specific months and daily hours and cool a much larger area. Determining your maintenance plan may sound complicated, but it’s as simple as reading your unit’s instruction manual (no, we’re not kidding!). Manufacturers have taken the time to test each part of your unit, and the manual isn’t included just so you have something to fill that weird drawer under your oven with. If you need a new copy of your unit’s manual, you can usually purchase them online from the manufacturer by selecting your model.

When you do an inspection on your unit, make sure you’re taking a look at things like the coils, blower assembly, motor and filters, and replace or clean each one as needed.

… is worth a pound of cure.

Why are we putting so much emphasis on preventive maintenance? As with most things in life, it’s all about the money.

Say the average cost of a new HVAC unit is $4,000, with a lifespan of 10 years. If you do routine maintenance on your unit, calling an expert when necessary, you’ll replace it after 10 great years for a system cost of around $10,000. You also spend a total of 3 days or so over the course of 10 years waiting for repairs. That’s a lot of money and time, but consider the alternative. You don’t take care of your $4,000 unit like you should, and it fails around year 5. You replace it, and once again don’t keep up with it – waiting for the repair man takes time and money! – so it needs to be replaced again after year 10. That’s $12,000 already, $2,000 more than if you had just paid maintenance costs in the first place, not to mention the time and comfort you’ll waste spending days in excessive heat or cold, waiting for your new units to be installed.

When should you do preventive maintenance?

For systems that both heat and cool, check in with them in the spring and fall, while the weather is still between seasons. That way you won’t be left scrambling in extreme heat or cold to fix your unit. To remember when it’s time for maintenance, just tie it to the check-ins you’re already doing – spring cleaning and back to school preparation.

If you only have a air conditioning unit, check it once a year, before you really need it. Once again, spring is a great time to take care of this.

The best way to determine if your unit should just receive standard maintenance or if it’s ready to be replaced is by doing a lifecycle analysis of your HVAC system. Your unit will be inspected to determine which plan is best suited for your current and future HVAC needs.

Of course, all that being said, a preventive maintenance plan is only as good as the people you have carrying it out. That’s where BNG comes in. We have 150 years of combined experience serving you. We want you to make your home as comfortable as possible because we know you have better things to worry about than your HVAC system, like getting your kids to school on time. Contact us at one of our four locations to get a free estimate from our expert technicians on service or repair.