How do you detect a gas leak?

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Smelling a gas leak

Natural gas doesn’t have an odor, there is no smell for natural gas. What you do smell when the  gas is turned on or if there is a gas leak is mercaptan, a chemical that give natural gas an odor like rotten eggs. So, if you come home and smell rotten eggs or a sewer odor, bur then realize you had a gas leak for 2 hours, you need to take immediate steps, but no need to panic.

It is definitely not good to leave a gas appliance on like the oven or stovetop, and Dearborn heaters or anything with a pilot can blow out, creating a gas leak. However, if you handle right, in a short time, that rotten egg odor will be gone. 

  1. Avoid Electricity and Open Flames: Even the smallest flame or spark will ignite a gas leak. Until the house is aired out, do not turn on any appliance, lights, or an open flame. 
  2. Turn the Gas Off: Check the oven and stove, making sure all the knobs are in off position. Check all-natural gas-powered items that could have a natural gas pilot light like the Dearborn space heaters or water heater. If the flame blows out to a gas pilot light, the gas is still on, creating a gas leak.
  3. Open Every Door and Window: This will allow the house to air out and ventilate. Within two to three houses, the house should be clear of that rotten egg odor. If not, you need to call the gas company and request a gas leak check.
  4.  Vacate the House of Everyone: For their own safety, vacate everyone, including pets. Even the slightest gas leak can cause health issues for some people and pets. 

How do I know if I smell gas?

You’ll know the smell of once you’ve smelled it, it is hard to forget.  What smells like a gas leak but isn’t? If you smell anything like rotten eggs, gas leak or sewer smell, but you aren’t cooking any eggs, and you don’t have sewer backing up, then you probably have a gas leak.  The odor of a gas leak is like smelling a skunk that has sprayed.  Once you’ve smelled that odor, you can’t forget it, no matter how hard you might try. In fact, some people say that a natural gas leak smells like skunk spray to them. Like we all have different taste, we have different perceptions of odors and smells too. 

Is a small gas leak dangerous?

It can be, but fortunately, because of the chemical, mercaptan, that is added to natural gas before it is released to the public, gas leaks are rare.  Luckily, explosions and fires are even more uncommon than a gas leak because of that rotten egg or skunk odor from a gas leak.  That odor gives us a heads up that something needs to be taken care of promptly. 

What makes a gas leak dangerous, small, or otherwise, is gas being flammable. The smallest spark can cause a small gas leak to explode and a house or any structure catch on fire. Other than an appliance not being turned off or a pilot flame blowing out, what can cause a gas leak? 

Natural gas leaks can happen if when a gas pipe is damaged. This can happen at construction and roadway sights when an underground gas pipe is hit by construction equipment. It can even happen if a homeowner is digging holes in their yard and get too deep. 

A gas leak also happens when the gas line fittings become loose. Another cause of a gas leak is an appliance not being connected properly.  This is why it is always recommended to have an experienced contractor install any appliance that is operated by gas.  

How do you use a gas leak detector?

There are several tools that a homeowner with natural gas can benefit from that will assist in pinpointing a gas leak source: 

Carbon Monoxide Detector:

When you have a gas leak and carbon monoxide detector will monitor that silent killer. Carbon monoxide comes from burning natural few, oil, wood, or other types of fuel. It is invisible and odorless. Most gas-powered appliances, such as furnaces and stoves are vented so that the CO is removed safely. However, if the chimney or vent is blocked, the CO can leak into the home and becomes a silent poison. Anyone exposed to CO can become nauseous, sleepy, week, and if they inhale enough, it can kill them. 

UEi Test Instruments Combustible Gas Detector:

This is the all-around detector that detects and identifies a variety of toxic gases. This alerts you to ventilate the area immediately or leave. This can be a helpful tool for homes with an attached garage or a room over the garage. A homeowner that works on cars or with wood should have one of these to detect issues with the several toxic chemicals used for those hobbies. 

Informant 2 Refrigerant & Combustible Gas Leak Detector:

This gas leak detector will alert the homeowner when there is airborne refrigerant gas in the home. The home should be vacated, and a professional plumber called for repair. 

Dish Liquid, Water, and Spray Bottle:

There are over-the-counter products, but you can do a basic check using your own mixture of dish liquid and water in a spray bottle. In fact, you can use a basic household cleaner in a spray bottle. Spray over where you believe there is a gas leak, typically at a connection. If it bubbles, tighten the fitting, and if it still leaks, it would be advisable to call a professional plumber at that point. 

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Why can I smell gas but no one else can?

If we do an internet search to answer this question, we find that it is a possible phantom or neurological issue of the person that smells the gas leak. Another thought to this matter that won’t send you into a frenzy reading WebMD is that everyone simply does not pick up the same odors. Nor do we hear the same sounds or like the same tastes and sights. 

It is important that even if only one person smells a gas leak, that attention be given to that and source where it is coming from; if unable to pinpoint the gas leak, evacuate the house and call a plumber at 551-257-6200.