Experts offer tips on heater safety ahead of cold snap

Many people will be turning on their heaters for the first time this season with the colder weather.

"I expect that later on we will make a high number of odor or smoke investigations," Eddie Martinez, shift commander at Austin Fire Department, said.

"More often than not, we get called for the funny smells, and we will gladly come and check the components to make sure that nothing is on fire," Lt. Adan Torres with Travis County Fire Rescue said.

Experts say it's normal to smell a little bit of burning dust at first, but if there's smoke, call 911.

Greg Yamin with A+ Air Conditioning and Home Solutions says gas furnaces should be checked for leaks. "Natural gas would leak, if it were to leak, would be leaking at fittings... or it would be leaking at a valve," he said.

If your home doesn't run on gas, you don't have to test it.

However, Yamin says, "if you do have an all-electric home, and you do have a heat pump, you are still getting your unit checked out for proper operations, so when it's cold, it still does heat your house."

"Check your filters first, make sure all your equipment's been serviced recently, and you've got good, clean filters in there," Torres said.

It's important to have both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

"Some folks that do have gas in their residences, gas heaters, what they aren't aware of is that the byproduct of that is carbon monoxide," Torres said.

If it goes off, call for help and open windows.

"Having your home safe is very important to us," Yamin said.

Firefighters also say it's important to keep heating equipment away from anything that can burn.