Winter Heating Safety Tips

The following is a press release from NorthWestern Energy:

Huron, S.D. - January 24, 2008 - Most of the upper Midwest has been experiencing single digit and sub-zero temperatures for almost a week, causing heating systems to work overtime to keep homes and businesses warm. NorthWestern Energy is reminding customers to use their heating systems safely and wisely.

Customers using natural gas appliances to heat buildings should make sure exhaust vents do not become iced over or blocked by blowing and drifting snow. Blocked appliance vents could result in a loss of heat or buildup of deadly carbon monoxide in the structure.

During bitter cold temperatures, customers may feel the desire to increase their heating system's thermostat setting; however, increasing the temperature will make your heating system work even harder to keep up with the outside temperature, causing unneeded electricity or natural gas consumption. NorthWestern recommends that customers keep their home at the lowest comfortable setting - usually around 68 degrees during the day and 60-65 degrees at night.

"I always think of a 68 degree spring day, and how I would dress for that," said Mike Williams - Area Manager, Aberdeen. "If your house feels cold, ensure that you are wearing enough layers of clothing. A sweatshirt or thick socks can save you a bundle of money when heating a home in temperatures like we are experiencing now."

Furnace filters are also working overtime due to increased heating needs. Check and replace your filter if it shows signs of use. Use caulk to seal air leaks around doors and windows.

Electric space heaters are also a good way to supplement your structure's heating system. When using electric space heaters, make sure to keep them away from blankets, curtains, and other flammable objects. Also, make sure space heaters are UL certified.

If you experience problems with natural gas heat or an electrical outage, please call NorthWestern Energy immediately.

Gas/Electric Emergencies: 1-800-245-6977

Other safety tips to remember:

Use a woodstove or fireplace only if they are in safe working condition.

Only use propane or kerosene space heaters as a last resort, and be sure to leave a window open to allow sufficient combustion air and to permit exhaust by-products to exit. Carbon Monoxide (CO) can build up quickly if the heater isn't working properly.

Never use an hibachi or a charcoal barbecue indoors.

Don't try to heat your home with the flame from a range or oven.

Elderly people, infants, and people with certain medical conditions are at greater risk of hypothermia, even indoors. Dress in layers, and use blankets to ward off a chill.

About NorthWestern Energy

Northwestern Energy is one of the largest providers of electricity and natural gas in the Upper Midwest and Northwest, serving more than 640,000 customers in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. More information on NorthWestern Energy is available on the Company's Web site at