Preparing for a cold night: Gas fire on or off?
January 6, 2014 7:16 PM   Subscribe

We are in a small apartment in Georgia. It's going to be cold by Georgia's standards: the forecasts predict a minimum of about eight degrees Fahrenheit. We're leaving our taps running slightly. We've done all we can to insulate the windows. We want to know whether to leave our gas fire on or off. If we turn it off, we increase the chance of a pipe bursting. But we're worried that leaving it on will be dangerous. We don't have a carbon monoxide detector. The only other heater we have is a small electric storage heater. Please help, metafilterians!
posted by HoraceH to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Don't mess around with anything that could cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Family friends went to bed one night and the parents woke up with headaches. When the mom started throwing up, they all went to the hospital. If they hadn't woken up when they did, they might not have woken up at all. Carbon monoxide poisoning happens a lot in places that get very cold.
posted by kat518 at 8:22 PM on January 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

It is really okay to risk broken pipes if the alternative is leaving a gas fire on. I'm not sure what kind of electric storage heater you mean, but most portable heaters are not considered safe to use unattended for hours (i.e. overnight).

In addition to leaving a tap dripping, if you have any cabinets covering pipes (i.e. under kitchen/bathroom sinks), leave the cabinet doors open so room temp air can reach the pipes. Makes a big difference especially if the plumbing is up against an outside wall.
posted by variella at 8:37 PM on January 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

You can crack a window, which kind of defeats the process of trying to keep warm. I agree about keeping the taps on a trickle, more than a drip, you need to keep the water flowing so it does not have a chance to freeze in the pipes.
posted by wandering_not_lost at 8:51 PM on January 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Cracking a window will NOT appreciably increase your safety. I was surprised to learn this, but it turns out a large number of CO poisonings occur in rooms with open windows, garages with open doors, or even outside. CO is nasty stuff.
posted by wjm at 2:49 AM on January 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

CO poisonings occur in rooms with open windows, garages with open doors, or even outside.

Just to emphasize this, it happened to some people I know outside on a boat on a lake, nearly killing their daughter. CDC report with more technical info.

So yes, take the risk of CO seriously.

I live in GA and in similar situations leaving the water running slightly is generally sufficient. Although it sounds like you don't have much in the way of heating where you are, remember that all your lights and appliances produce heat and so your apartment will probably stay warmer than you expect. It sounds like we will only have about 48 hours of sub-freezing temps which is a lot down here but almost negligible in some parts of the country.
posted by TedW at 5:35 AM on January 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hi, please confirm that you're alive, thanks. Been worried about you.
posted by juniperesque at 7:13 AM on January 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for your advice everyone! We decided to leave the storage heater on, and the fire off. We woke up this morning to find that no pipes had burst. I'm going to pick up a Carbon Monoxide detector later today.
posted by HoraceH at 7:35 AM on January 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

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