Older homes and apartments often have these long wall heaters (also called wall furnaces) that use gas. These warm up the room very quickly, but if you're not used to having them, you might end up with an unusable heater next fall if you don't know how to care for it during summer when it's not in use. When these heaters are in apartment complexes, the management company often takes care of them for the tenant. But if you're in a house and have one that you're responsible for, you need to pay attention to these to keep yourself safe.

If the Heater Has Standing Pilot Lights

If you have an older gas wall heater that has a standing pilot light, contact your utility company or a heating company to shut it off. There's no sense in letting the pilot light run for months when you know you aren't going to turn on the heater. Not only does that use up gas and cost you money — it might be only a small amount, but that adds up — but the small flame can add a little heat to the immediate area, which is not something you want in summer. Plus, with the pilot light on and the gas running, the chance of a gas leak or carbon monoxide leak should be on your mind. That risk is, technically, always present just by having gas lines in your home. However, when you have a standing pilot light, if that light goes out, the gas will continue to run and leak into your home.

If you have a gas wall heater with an electronic-ignition pilot light, then you don't have to worry about standing pilots and all the issues that go along with those. However, you should still ask a heating company to inspect the heater for leaks in general so that you can spend summer having fun and not worrying about what condition the heater is in. While your utility company can also inspect, they typically don't do repairs, and you'd have to call a heating company anyway.

General Dusting

Regardless of the fuel source, keep the external casing clean. Dust it regularly; you can use a vacuum attachment to dust the front grills. If you're concerned about dust and webs building up behind the grill, have a heating company help you open up the heater. Don't attempt this yourself. Just let the heater techs know you want to clean behind the front casing.

Before Next Fall

When fall arrives, you do not want to light the pilot yourself; call the heating company toward the end of summer to make an appointment to have the heater inspected and the pilot relit. If that sounds like you're having the heater constantly inspected, that's actually a good thing. Gas leaks can start very slowly, and of course, carbon monoxide isn't detectable unless you have a monitor/alarm (or you start to feel sick, which is a stage you never want to reach). You may want to discuss replacing the heater with a newer model with electronic ignition, or switching to electric heating; the heating company can show you models and tell you what replacement would require.

For more information on heating services, contact a professional near you.