Signs of a Gas Leak
The smell of gas, or the additive utility companies add to natural gas services, is a sure sign of a gas leak. But, it is not the only sign. Homeowners should be vigilant for other less noticeable clues. Some gas leaks are slow enough to go unnoticed posing a safety risk to your family; natural gas leaks can cause symptoms much like carbon monoxide poisoning including dizziness, headaches, respiratory problems, nausea, and possibly more serious ailments, and also pose a serious fire hazard.
What is a Gas Leak?
You may be asking, what is a gas leak? A gas leak can happen with natural gas, propane and carbon monoxide. Gas leaks can happen both inside and outside of the home and pose a great danger to families, pets, and properties. While propane and natural gas leaks can present signs that homeowners’ can easily detect, carbon monoxide is virtually undetectable without electronic detectors.
Homeowners can be vigilant of all forms of gas leaks by being aware of common signs and performing regular checks of their fuel burning systems and appliances.
What Are Signs of a Gas Leak?
A sulfuric or rotten egg smell is the most common and most noticeable sign of a gas leak. Because natural gas is odorless and colorless, utility companies add a chemical to the system so that customers can easily identify leaks.
Dead Patches in Landscaping
Natural gas lines travel through pipe line systems and utility stations to be delivered to homeowner’s property, usually near the property line. These underground pipes are maintained on the city side by utility companies and on the customers’ property side by the homeowners. When a gas line underground is leaking, it can be hard to tell. One sign to clue homeowner’s in on a possible underground leak is to look at the landscaping. When gas leaks underground, it can cause vegetation to die and will leave a noticeable dead patch.
If it has rained, or there are low spots water can pool in dead areas and bubbling in the puddles is a sure sign of a leak underneath.
A hissing sound escaping near gas lines is indicative of a big gas leak. By the time a homeowner hears the sound of air (or gas) forcibly leaking out of a pipe, they should follow safety precautions and address the leak immediately.
If a homeowner suspects a leak in any pressurized system, they can use dish soap, a little water, and a cloth rag to tell if there is a leak. Make sure the system is on and mix the soap and water. Wipe down the area of pipe and bubbles will form if there is a leak. Often, even if there is a slow leak and homeowners can visually see the pipe, it could still be nearly undetectable. Gas could be slowly escaping from a corroded portion of gas piping that may look old, but intact.
Slow natural gas leaks can cause physical symptoms if left unattended for any amount of time. Natural gas leaks cause physical sickness much like carbon monoxide. If anyone in the home begins to experience fatigue, headaches, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath, or other life threating symptoms, they should leave the house immediately and contact the right professional or authority for the emergency. Homeowners can contact their local utilities company, a licensed plumber, or the fire department if they feel safety is compromised.
Is a Gas Leak Dangerous?
Natural gas leaks can be repaired very quickly and safely by a professional plumber, but they can pose safety dangers to homeowners. Carbon monoxide leaks can be deadly. Homeowners should take every precaution when dealing with gas leaks inside of their home.
If a homeowner’s suspects a gas leak, they should immediately open windows and leave the home taking family members and pets with them. Homeowners should not turn any appliances on, operate any electricity, or start their vehicle. Any spark can cause an explosion.
Once safely outside and in safe distance from the home, homeowners can contact their local utility company and a licensed professional plumber to detect and repair the leak.
Will Utility Companies Detect Gas Leaks?
Utility companies will detect if there is a gas leak, but they do not locate the source of the leak or repair it. Licensed professional plumbers will detect and repair the gas leak and provide permits and coordinate with the city for final inspections.
How Can Homeowners Prevent Gas Leaks?
Although homeowners do not have control over gas lines, vigilance will go a long way toward preventing gas leaks. Homeowners should hire a licensed plumber to perform an annual inspection of their homes’ plumbing systems. Inspection of visual gas lines, gas hookups, and exterior gas connections can help a homeowner stay ahead of any possible problems.
Homeowners should also hire an HVAC specialist to perform annual maintenance on their furnace(s) and air conditioning systems. During annual maintenance, a reputable contractor will also perform a complete safety check on the furnace and ensure that no gas or carbon monoxide is leaking and that it is safe to use.
Springtime or fall is best for both annual inspections and HVAC maintenance prior to busy summers and holidays and cooler weather.
Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Every home should have carbon monoxide detectors installed at the proper locations inside of their home. California has made it a requirement for all single and multi-family residences to have both smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. All new installations must also be systems of the 10-year non-serviceable type of detectors.
Many smoke detectors also come with a carbon monoxide detector built in, but homeowners should make sure that they have detectors outside of each bedroom and on every level of the home. There are even connected detectors that will sound the alarm on all carbon monoxide devices throughout the home.
Because carbon monoxide is a common byproduct of any fuel that is burned, it can happen in just about any home. Homeowners should make sure that all gas burning appliances are kept in good condition and checked regularly.
To schedule your annual plumbing check-up or heating & air conditioning maintenance, or if you suspect a gas leak in your home, call Bill Howe at 1-800 BILL HOWE (245-5469).