How to Tell If You Have a Gas Leak
May 2, 2021
Natural gas appliances may cost more upfront, but they can save you money on energy use in the long run. If your house is already set up to use gas, choosing natural gas appliances can save you as much as 30% each month, and they are generally considered more eco-friendly than electrical appliances. When natural gas is burned for fuel instead of traditional sources like coal, it emits less than half of the amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
While most modern appliances are equipped with failsafes, understanding natural gas safety is crucial. Gas leaks can pose a variety of health concerns, especially if your house is poorly ventilated. So what are the risks of using natural gas, and how can you tell if you have a gas line leak?
How gas leaks can impact your health
A natural gas leak from the source pipes can cause symptoms as it changes the available amount of oxygen in the air. If natural gas begins to saturate the air, and even more alarming concern is the risk of explosion if a spark ignites the gas.
In addition to gas leaks, a propane or natural gas appliance leaking gas that hasn’t completely burned poses a risk of a carbon monoxide leak. Unlike natural gas, carbon monoxide smell is undetectable, and it can quickly become a silent killer.
Natural gas poisoning and carbon monoxide poisoning can cause a variety of health problems, and in some cases they are fatal. Symptoms of gas leaks include:
- Frequent chest pains or difficulty breathing
- Memory and focus problems
- Irritated eyes or throat
- Reduced appetite
- Depression, irritability, or other mood problems
You should periodically evaluate your gas lines, pilot lights, and gas appliances for signs of damage and ensure your furnace and water heater are maintained regularly to keep you and your family safe. We also recommend checking your gas supply quarterly.
Signs of a gas leak
Luckily, most natural gas providers will have technicians on call 24/7 to handle possible leaks to ensure the safety of their customers. However, if the issue is with your appliance or your HVAC system, you’ll likely need to call a contractor to get them to address the issue.
- Rotten egg smell – On its own, natural gas is odorless, but hydrogen sulfide is used as an odorant to give it a rotten egg smell to make a leak easier to detect. If you smell gas (rotten egg odor), you should leave the house immediately and turn off the gas meter if possible. The distinctive odor is one of the first signs of a suspected gas leak.
- Dead houseplants or landscaping – Because plants use air at a much smaller scale than we do, they will feel the effects of a gas leak much quicker. If you have dead bushes around the gas pipe, or your house plants have suddenly died, you may have a gas leak.
- Hissing sound – If you hear a hissing sound coming from your water heater or furnace, there’s a good chance you have a gas leak. A hissing sound often indicates a gas line leak.
- Orange or yellow flames on your stove or pilot lights – Natural gas will typically burn bright blue. If a pilot light or the flame on your stove is acting erratic or burning yellow and orange, then you may be leaking carbon monoxide.
In some cases, you may not notice any obvious signs of a gas leak. Luckily, you can purchase carbon monoxide or gas leak detectors and put them around your home. However, it’s important to note what these devices are designed to alert you to. A simple carbon monoxide detector can prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, natural gas won’t set off any alarms.
You can purchase combination carbon monoxide and natural gas leak detectors, or purchase them separately. They should be installed about 5 feet from the floor in every room, and you should test them routinely just as you do with a smoke alarm.
Prevention is key
In most homes, the furnace is the biggest gas appliance, and wear and tear can lead to a cracked or damaged heat exchanger or inefficient use of fuel. An HVAC specialist should inspect your system and provide a thorough cleaning and lubrication, ideally twice a year. Not only can this prevent gas leaks, it can also help extend the lifespan of your HVAC system and save you money on repairs and replacement.
Routine maintenance can also help your system work more efficiently, saving you money on your gas bill while also keeping your home more comfortable. An HVAC specialist can also improve your indoor air quality by ensuring toxic gases stay out of your duct system and prevent them from leaking into your conditioned space.
The bottom line
Protecting your home from gas leaks can save you thousands of dollars from fire damage and medical bills, but more importantly, it can save your life. At Simpson Sheet Metal, we have over 30 years of experience helping customers keep their HVAC systems functioning at peak efficiency, and our technicians can help prevent gas leaks in your homes. For commercial and residential HVAC services in the Santa Rosa area, contact us today for your free quote and learn more about how we can help.