What to do if You Smell a Gas Leak

What to do if You Smell a Gas Leak

When used and installed correctly, natural gas is convenient and safe. But gas leaks can happen in even the best systems. These leaks can lead to physical symptoms, and carbon monoxide poisoning is a danger if it goes unchecked. Both people and animals can fall victim to gas leak symptoms.

The American Gas Association estimates that there are over 71 million commercial, industrial, and residential premises throughout the United States that use natural gas. Since natural gas is very flammable, gas leaks increase explosion and fire risks.

If you suspect a gas leak, you must take steps to protect yourself and your family immediately. Leave the premises and call the local fire department, 911, or your utility company’s emergency number. We’ll tell you about gas leak symptoms, signs, causes, and what to do if you discover a gas leak on your premises.

gas leaks

Causes of Gas Leaks

Gas leaks can appear unexpectedly and cause a lot of damage to the underlying pipes. These leaks can threaten the well-being and safety of your family and friends inside your house. For these reasons, you must take immediate action if you believe you have a gas leak. The most common gas leak causes include:

Appliances 

There’s a very good chance that you have an appliance or two in your home that uses propane or natural gas to operate. Popular appliances include your gas dryer, fireplace, stove, or water heater. Over time, the seals that connect and hold your home’s piping to these appliances can corrode and wear out. This corrosion and the breaking down of these seals and pipes can lead to gas leaks in your home or business.

Lack of Ventilation

Any appliance that generates heat and is experiencing a malfunction can create and emit higher levels of carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of combustion.

Larger items, like heating systems for your home, may generate carbon monoxide. But these appliances can eliminate it with a chimney or exhaust fan. If the chimney gets clogged or the exhaust fan stops working, carbon monoxide can start to fill up your home. Carbon monoxide is odorless, and this makes it hard to detect. Monitoring for it continually is essential, however, as it can be deadly.

Poor Piping

There is a maze of crisscrossing pipes under your home. These pipes bring gas into your appliances’ pipe connectors. Over time, this piping system can erode or become faulty. The pipes can disconnect and wear out, or they can become disconnected because of external forces like surrounding tree roots. Poor piping is very common in older homes, and this can allow gas to start to seep inside.

How to Detect Gas Leaks

Fortunately, there are several ways you can detect gas leaks. The following signs could be indicators that you have an active gas leak in or around your home. If you’re not sure, you’ll want to call in professionals just to be safe.

Listen 

  • You hear a whistling sound coming from the general area of your gas lines.
  • There is a hissing or roaring noise by your appliances.

Look 

  • You can see a damaged connection leading to your natural gas appliance.
  • Debris, dirt, or water get blown into the air around the gas line.
  • There is a random dry patch of grass in your yard when everywhere else is moist.
  • You see an explosion or fire near the pipeline.
  • An earthquake, flood, fire, or other disasters can cause exposed pipelines.
  • Your gas bill is much higher than normal.

Smell

  • A sulfur-like odor hangs in the air.

Be Wary of Relying on Just Smell

Although many people say gas has a distinctive odor that can make a gas leak easy to recognize, there are reasons why you may not be able to smell it. They include:

  • Having a diminished sense of smell.
  • You’re experiencing a phenomenon called odor fatigue. This is a temporary, normal inability to smell an odor after you’ve been around it for a while.
  • You have a common cold, allergies, or a sinus infection.
  • You routinely use alcohol, tobacco, certain medications, or drugs.
  • Other odors hide or mask the gas odor.
    Soil or pipe conditions have caused a phenomenon called odor fade

Understanding Odor Fade

Chemical or physical processes can cause natural gas to lose its smell, making it undetectable. Absorption, adsorption, oxidation, or a combination of all three can cause odor fade. The following situations are more likely to bring about odor fade:

  • You have natural gas piping systems that use a higher amount of pressure, and the natural gas flow can be intermittent or limited.
  • You have new, steel piping that wasn’t made to handle odorized natural gas.
  • There is mill scale, rust, air, moisture, pipe thread compound, cutting oil, condensates, liquids, or other substances masking it.

Signs of Gas Leaks

While small gas leaks may not come with physical symptoms or a smell, you might notice:

  • Bubbles in water
  • Damaged gas pipe
  • Dead houseplants
  • Hissing or whistling sound near a gas line
  • Smell of sulfur or rotten eggs
  • White cloud or dust cloud near a gas line

Your gas bills may go up because some gas escapes from appliances or gas lines into your home or business.

Physical Symptoms of Gas Leaks

As the gas leaks into the home, the oxygen levels in the air will drop. The reduced oxygen levels are what cause the physical symptoms associated with exposure to gas leaks. These physical symptoms include but are not limited to:

  • Blistering or pale skin following direct contact with the gas
  • Chest pains
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Drowsiness or fatigue
    Eye and throat irritation
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Headaches
  • Mood changes and swings, including depression
  • Nausea
  • Nosebleeds
  • Reduced appetite
  • Ringing in the ears

Gas Leak Exposure Symptoms in Pets

Your pets are more susceptible to developing symptoms of gas leak exposure. This susceptibility is due to their smaller size and higher sensitivity levels. If you own pets and suspect a gas leak, you should keep an eye on:

  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Disorientation
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mood or behavior changes
  • Red or watering eyes
  • Sore throat
  • Unconsciousness
  • Vomiting

In extreme exposure cases, your pet could even die from too much exposure to gas.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Although typical gas leak exposure symptoms can be severe, carbon monoxide poisoning is even more deadly. Carbon monoxide poisoning can mirror the signs of a gas leak. You can end up with carbon monoxide emissions when gas doesn’t completely burn.

Exposure can be fatal if you don’t treat it. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) found that 5,149 people died in the United States between 1999 and 2010 from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning. There are several symptoms to look for, and they include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Muscle control loss
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pink skin and bright red lips

What to Do if You Suspect a Gas Leak

If you suspect your home has a gas leak, it’s critical that you immediately evacuate every person and all of your pets from the building. You want to leave the doors open to keep the gas from building up in the home. Call the local fire department, 911, or your utility company’s emergency hotline number. Make sure you’re outside the house before you make this call. Using your phone can ignite the gas and set off an explosion.

Animals and people displaying symptoms of gas exposure require immediate treatment. If the symptoms are severe, make sure you detail this in your 911 call. Ask if the operator will dispatch an ambulance, or take them straight to your local emergency department. If you’re taking your pets to the emergency vet, call ahead and tell them why you’re coming.

You may suspect a gas leak but have trouble confirming it right away. If this is the case, you should make a note of any symptoms you experience when you leave and enter the property. Symptoms that come back when you go into the house and disappear when you leave could indicate a gas leak. It could also indicate carbon monoxide poisoning or mold poisoning.

If you go into your home or building and you can smell gas, turn off your gas pilot light right away. Go around and open all of your windows. Step outside and call your utility company. The utility company will most likely dispatch a certified technician to inspect your home. They’ll bring equipment that monitors the gas levels in the air.

Things You Should Never Do If You Suspect a Gas Leak

There are things you should do in the event of a gas leak, and there are things you should never do. Even if you haven’t confirmed the gas leak in your home yet, you should never:

  • Allow the situation to go unreported
  • Attempt to repair the leak
  • Keep the doors and windows closed
  • Search for the source of the leak
  • Switch lights or household appliances on or off
  • Use a phone inside the home
  • Use sources of ignition like candles, lighters, or matches

What to Do After You Have a Gas Leak

A certified technician will usually confirm a gas leak using an adjusted electronic gas analyzer. The technician will check your outside gas lines and appliances for leaks or faults. When they find the leak, they’ll repair it right away. Once they fix it, you should:

  • Air out the house for a few hours before going back inside
  • Install or check your carbon monoxide alarms
  • Wait until you get the official notification to go back into the building

Typically, gas leak symptoms won’t impact your health if you had low exposure levels and had someone fix it quickly. However, having long-term exposure to a gas leak can result in symptoms that won’t go away, including respiratory problems, depression, or mood-related issues. It’s a good idea to check with your doctor after you have exposure to gas, especially if you have long-term problems. With the proper treatment, your symptoms can resolve or improve.

Preventing Gas Leaks

Fortunately, it’s possible to prevent gas leaks from happening. All it takes is a little time and dedication, but it’s worth it to keep everyone safe. Top prevention tips include:

Educate Yourself 

People should make a point to learn about the symptoms that come with gas leaks. You want to teach your children and family members about staying safe around natural gas. Everyone should know what to do if they suspect or confirm a gas leak. You may even want to write down a plan and what to look for with gas leaks.

Ensure Good Ventilation 

You want to keep the areas around your gas equipment and gas-burning appliances unobstructed and clutter-free. This ensures the natural gas doesn’t build up in these spots. It’s also a good idea to air out your house or building regularly.

Install Carbon Monoxide Detectors 

A carbon monoxide detector looks like a smoke alarm, and you can plug it into an outlet or install batteries. You want one on every floor of your home. Ideally, every bedroom in your home will have one installed too.

Keep a Fire Extinguisher Inside Your Home 

Gas leaks are highly flammable. You can ignite natural gas by a spark, and even making a phone call is enough to set it off. Have a least one fire extinguisher in your home, and have routine inspections. This fire extinguisher will help you react quickly if there is a fire.

Schedule Routine Inspections 

Every year, schedule routine inspections of all of your gas pipelines and gas-burning appliances. This service is usually free, and your utility company will send a certified technician out. Mark it on the calendar so you don’t forget to call.

Store Your Chemicals Carefully

Store all of your household chemicals like paint and cleaning supplies away from your gas lines and appliances. Make sure these chemicals are in a well-ventilated space that is clean and dry. Go through them once a year and get rid of any expired cleaners or chemicals you find.

Contact Best San Diego Leak Detection Today!

If you suspect that you have a gas leak in your home or business, contact us. Our certified technicians can come out, assess your property, and help fix any gas leaks we find.

November 19, 2019 Categories: