• Special to the Daily Leader
Black Hills Energy encourages customers to be mindful of the utility equipment on their property and to keep the natural gas meter clear of snow this winter so it can operate safely and accurately.
Natural gas meters and regulators are manufactured to operate under normal winter conditions. While a light ice coating or snow buildup should not affect a natural gas meter, Black Hills Energy reminds customers to remove heavy snow from the meter and the surrounding area, but to exercise care so the equipment is not damaged.
The meter should remain visible and easily accessible at all times so that an accurate reading can be made and the meter is easy to locate and service.
If there is snow on the meter, sweep it away by hand or with a brush, but do not use a shovel or other hard object or implement. Natural gas service is safe and meters are durable, but hitting the meter or piping with a shovel or other snow removal equipment could damage the meter, potentially causing a natural gas leak or a disruption of service.
“For those who have a meter buried in snow, it’s generally as simple as clearing away the snow periodically and before it freezes,” Steve Hanna, the company’s Kansas director of operations, said. “Regardless of the season, we encourage customers to keep their natural gas meter and service valve visible and accessible at all times.”
While removing snow carefully from the meter is encouraged, do not attempt to remove or chip away ice from the natural gas meter. If there is concern about ice buildup on the meter, call the Black Hills Energy emergency number at 800-694-8989 so that an experienced utility service professional can inspect the meter, free of charge.
“If you smell natural gas inside a building, leave the home or business immediately and once outside the building, call Black Hills Energy’s emergency number from a neighbor’s home or from a cell phone,” Hanna said. “Do not switch on or off any lights or open any windows as you exit. If there is a natural gas leak in the house or business, a spark of any kind could ignite it and cause personal injury and property damage.”
If you smell gas outdoors, move away from the area and call the Black Hills Energy emergency number, 800-694-8989, and watch for the arrival of emergency personnel.
Other safety advice from Black Hills Energy:
o Do not use a snow blower or shovel in close proximity to the natural gas meter set or piping and do not pile snow on the meter set. Clear any snow from the meter and piping and from around the natural gas equipment by hand or with a broom.
o Make snow removal contractors or personnel aware of meters so they don’t accidentally hit a natural gas meter or piping, potentially causing a natural gas leak or disruption of service.
o Carefully clear away snow by hand from the outdoor vents of a side-vented, high-efficiency furnace. Furnaces will not run properly if the vents are blocked.