Appliance maintenance and safety

Natural gas appliances like furnaces, boilers, fireplaces and water heaters can give you years of comfort if you treat them right. Regular maintenance, like annual service by a licensed gas contractor as well as occasional attention like changing filters, can help keep them operating at their best – safely and efficiently. If you want your natural gas appliances to last, here’s what you can do. 

Find a licensed contractor

Use our online directory to find a licensed gas contractor to service your appliances. When selecting a contractor, look for one that employs certified gas fitters and has experience with inspecting all types of gas appliances for safe operation. Get expert advice on choosing a contractor.

Save up to $135 on appliance maintenance

Until November 30, 2019 you could be eligible for up to $135 in rebates when you have your natural gas furnace or boiler, fireplaces and tankless water heater serviced. Learn more and apply for your rebate.

Gas lines on your property

While having your natural gas appliances serviced, it may be a good idea to ask your contractor to inspect the gas lines that run past your meter and into your home or to outside appliances like barbecues or patio heaters. A licensed gas contractor can inspect your piping for corrosion or leaks that may need repair. 

Keeping appliances working safely between maintenance visits

Between visits by a licensed natural gas contractor, you can do some basic things to help your natural gas appliances run safely and efficiently. 

  • Keep the owners’ manuals that come with your appliances. They often contain directions on how often you should have the equipment serviced (usually annually) and what to look for if repairs are needed. 
  • Know where the shut-off valve is for each appliance and how to use it, if necessary. The gas is “off” when the valve handle is at a right angle to the gas pipe.
  • Check your furnace filter at least every three months and replace or clean it if it’s dirty. If there are pets or smokers in the home, you may need to check the filter more often.
  • Don’t use or store combustible products such as solvents and glues near natural gas appliances, as they have open flames and can be a source of ignition. 
  • Keep the area around your natural gas appliances clear of any materials that could catch fire, like laundry, cardboard boxes, paper, paints and propane cylinders.
  • Don’t store gasoline-powered equipment or vehicles, including lawnmowers or motorcycles, near natural gas appliances.
  • Make sure the air supply vents and pipes to your natural gas appliances are not blocked by leaves, dust, debris, furniture or stored items. If you plan to enclose your water heater or furnace, check with a licensed gas contractor first.
  • Make sure your hot water tank is securely strapped to keep the water line and gas line from breaking in case of an earthquake. The BC Building and Plumbing Codes now require it, and contractors who install and service water heaters can do for you.

Maintaining your natural gas furnace or boiler

Regularly maintaining your natural gas heating system not only helps keep it working safely and efficiently but also helps promote good air quality in your home.

Have it serviced by a professional

Schedule regular inspections, cleaning and maintenance with a licensed gas contractor. Your owner’s manual should tell you how often you should have your equipment serviced and what it should include. Technical Safety BC generally recommends annual servicing and provides checklists of what to look for in a natural gas furnace, boiler or water heater service.

What should a furnace service include? 

In general, your contractor should: 

  • check the operation of safety limit controls, temperature set points, thermostat, blower, pressure switches, ignition and venting system 
  • remove and clean the blower
  • inspect the heat exchanger and burner 
  • in older models only: lubricate the blower and motor bearings, and remove and clean the burner

What should a boiler service include?

In general, your contractor should:

  • check the operation of safety limit controls, pressure relief valve, water pressure, venting system, temperature set points and radiant floor temperature control device
  • in older models only: lubricate the circulating pump, and remove and clean the burners

After the service, ask your gas contractor for a copy of their completed checklist. 

Furnace safety tips

  • Check your furnace filter at least every three months and replace or clean it if it’s dirty. It should be located near the blower fan and may be held in place by a clip. If there are pets or smokers in the home, you may need to check the filter more often. A clean filter helps your furnace run more efficiently and helps maintain the air quality in your home.
  • While changing the furnace filter, you may wish to inspect the furnace’s fan belt. If you see cracks or signs of wear, it may be time to have it replaced. Safety tip: shut off the electricity at the furnace switch and at the circuit breaker panel before inspecting or changing filters or fan belts. 
  • If your furnace motor has oiling points, apply a drop or two of SAE 20 non-detergent oil every heating season (avoid over-oiling).
  • Keep the area around the furnace clear. Don't store items against the furnace or keep flammable items in the furnace room, such as laundry, papers, boxes, solvents, propane cylinders or gasoline-powered equipment.
  • Keep air supply and return vents throughout your home clear of obstructions like furniture, lint, dust debris, leaves or pet hair.
  • Check the chimney and appliance vent system at least once a year to ensure the pipe is connected securely, there are no signs of corrosion or damage and nothing has fallen into the base of the chimney or into the flue.

When to call a professional

If you notice these signs of trouble with your natural gas furnace or boiler, it may be time to call a licensed gas contractor for repairs or replacement:  

  • any continuous or intermittent odour, such as the “rotten egg” smell of natural gas or a sharp odour that may cause eyes to sting
  • symptoms of the presence of carbon monoxide: nausea, headaches, lethargy or other flu-like symptoms
  • frequent pilot light outages (many newer gas furnaces do not have a standing pilot light – check your manual)
  • delayed ignition (mid- and high-efficiency furnaces have an intentional delay – check your manual)
  • a yellow or wavering flame
  • excessive soot or corrosion on the appliance or vent system (white, brown or black streaks)
  • too much or too little heat
  • indications that the flame has “rolled out” of the furnace – scorch marks by the door or other opening

Buying a new furnace? Make sure it’s installed properly.

Watch this short video to learn how to choose a natural gas contractor and why you should make sure your new furnace meets quality installation standards.

Maintaining your natural gas fireplace

Take care of your natural gas fireplace to help keep it working safety and efficiently – and giving you instant warmth and ambience each time you need it. 

Have it serviced by a professional

Schedule regular inspections, cleaning and maintenance with a licensed gas contractor. Your owner’s manual should tell you how often you should have your equipment serviced and what it should include. Technical Safety BC generally recommends annual servicing and provides a checklist of what to look for in a natural gas fireplace service.

What should a fireplace service include?

In general, your contractor should:

  • clean the interior of the glass
  • inspect the burner, gas valve, ignition system, door gaskets, venting and air openings

After the service, ask your gas contractor for a copy of their completed checklist. 

Fireplace safety tips

  • Keep the area around your gas fireplace clear of anything flammable, such as toys, clothing, plastics or paper.
  • Glass panels can heat up quickly and stay hot after the fireplace is turned off. Keep small children, pets and combustible materials away, and consider installing a safety screen or a fire-resistant hearth guard to keep young children from touching the glass.
  • If you are doing construction or renovations, do not operate your gas fireplace until the area is thoroughly cleaned. Drywall dust and other contaminants may harm the fan, motors and burners.

When to call a professional

If you notice these signs of trouble with your natural gas fireplace, it may be time to call a licensed gas contractor for repairs or replacement:

  • any continuous or intermittent odour, such as the “rotten egg” smell of natural gas or a sharp odour that may cause eyes to sting 
  • symptoms of the presence of carbon monoxide: nausea, headaches, lethargy or other flu-like symptoms 
  • pilot light outages (note: some newer natural gas fireplaces may not have a standing pilot light – check your manual)
  • delayed ignition (slow to start up) or “booming” noises upon ignition
  • excessive soot or corrosion inside the fireplace or on the venting system (white, brown or black streaks)