COLUMBUS, Ohio - The polar vortex has arrived in the Buckeye State, and energy experts have suggestions on how to keep homes warm, safely and efficiently.
Furnaces work overtime in sub-zero temperatures, and utility companies recommend setting thermostats as low as possible for comfort and health. Matt Schilling, deputy director of public affairs for the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, said that will help keep bills down and save wear and tear on heating systems. Indoor space heaters can provide extra warmth, he said, but only should be used with caution.
"We strongly encourage people to never be using them when they're not in the room; and then also, to keep them away from blinds, curtains, furniture, because they do get very, very hot," he said. "That can be a fire hazard and can quickly turn dangerous."
Space heaters also should be limited to one per room to avoid overloading a home's electrical system. Other ways to maintain warmth indoors are to ensure no heating vents are blocked, keep all doors and windows closed as much as possible, and close blinds and shades when the sun isn't out.
Another cold-weather concern in the home is carbon monoxide, a deadly gas that can be emitted from faulty gas-burning heating sources. Schilling strongly recommended installing a carbon monoxide detector and making sure it works.
"What's tricky about it is, it's really undetectable," he said. "There's no odor - you can't see it, of course - but it can affect your breathing, and the signs of it are very similar to flu symptoms. So, you might be feeling drowsy, a little bit sick, a little tired."
Schilling also suggested preparing for the possibility of a power outage by having flashlights and batteries ready, and keeping mobile phones charged.
"High winds or ice storms can really sometimes cause power outages," he said, "so be mindful of that so you have a charged cell phone to be able to contact anyone that you might need to."
Power outages should be reported right away, so the utility can determine their exact location and extent. Grid operators and power companies in Ohio prepared for the expected extra energy demand by canceling maintenance shutdowns and increasing staff available to respond to service disruptions.
More information is online at puco.org.