In the coming days, Oklahoma will be experiencing extremely cold temperatures. Safety is CenterPoint Energy's number-one priority and the company is preparing for the upcoming weather conditions.

As a natural gas utility serving 100,000 Oklahoma residential and business customers, CenterPoint Energy offers these tips to help keep your home safe and warm:

1. What are some safety measures that can be taken during extremely cold temperatures?

Make sure your heating system is working properly. Malfunctioning home heating equipment can cause a fire or carbon monoxide poisoning. Check that outside furnace vents aren't blocked by snow or ice. Keep your furnace filter clean for safe, efficient operation.

Use space heaters safely. Use a space heater with an automatic shut-off, and keep children, pets and all items at least three feet away. A space heater that uses gas, propane or wood should be vented to the outside. Stoves and ovens should never be used for space heating.

Check your carbon monoxide (CO) and smoke alarms. These devices are essential to warn you of a fire or dangerous malfunction with a furnace, water heater, fireplace or stove. Test your alarms monthly and change batteries every year.

2. What steps should be taken if there is a suspected gas leak?

Immediately report a suspected gas leak. If you smell the "rotten egg" odor of natural gas, immediately leave on foot, go to a safe location and call both 911 and CenterPoint Energy at 888-876-5786. Don't use electric switches, phones (including cell phones), drive or start a car, or do anything that could cause a spark.

3. What can be done to make a residence more energy efficient?

Lower your thermostat. Lowering your thermostat can help you save on your heating costs. Set your thermostat no higher than 68 degrees. If possible, set it at 65 degrees when you are home and 60 degrees when you are away from home.

Install a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat can help you automatically control your energy use.

4. How often should filters on furnaces be changed?

Keep your furnace filter clean. Change your furnace air filter monthly. A dirty filter restricts airflow and can increase the operating cost of your furnace by as much as 10%. A good reminder is to change the filter each time you receive your natural gas bill.

5. What additional measures can be taken?

Seal air leaks. Use caulk or weather stripping to seal leaks around doors, windows and other openings such as pipes or ducts. The most common places where air escapes in homes are floors, walls, ceilings, ducts, fireplaces, plumbing penetrations, doors, windows, fans, vents and electrical outlets. If it has been a while, consider adding more insulation in your attic.

Use drapes and blinds to let heat in and keep cold out. On sunny days, open draperies and blinds to let the sun's warmth in. Close them at night to insulate against the cold air outside.

CenterPoint Energy offers customers a variety of energy efficiency programs and rebates to save both energy and money.  For more information visit www.centerpointenergy.com/saveenergy.

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