As the weather gets colder outside, our usage of natural gas generally increases, whether it’s from turning up the furnace or using our hot water heaters a lot more.
With increased natural gas usage, it’s important to know how to tell if you have a gas leak – we’ll cover everything you need to know about gas leaks, such as natural gas safety tips, and who to contact when you suspect one is occurring.
What is a natural gas leak?
A natural gas leak (or home gas leak) refers to when natural gas leaks from appliances, pipes or other contained places into an area where it shouldn’t be.
The risks of a natural gas leak
Whenever there’s a natural gas leak, there’s also a risk of fire since electrical appliances or anything that creates sparks or flame can ignite natural gas. Natural gas leaks can also cause expensive property damage as well as increased natural gas bills.
Additionally, there are several health risks that we will go into further in this guide.
What does a gas leak smell like?
On its own, natural gas doesn’t actually have an odour. Typically, a chemical called mercaptan is added which gives natural gas a smell that’s similar to rotten eggs. This makes it easier for people to detect if there’s a leak in their house.
Signs and health symptoms of a gas leak
Below are some of the most common signs of a gas leak as well as the associated health symptoms:
- Houseplants suddenly dying/dead plants.
- Bubbles, dust, or a ‘cloud’ in standing water.
- A hissing or whistling sound.
- Visible damage to a gas line connection.
Natural gas leak symptoms from gas inhalation:
- Eye and/or throat irritation.
- Reduced appetite and/or nausea.
- Irritability, depression, or other mood changes.
- Ringing in your ears.
- Frequent nosebleeds.
- Difficulty breathing and/or chest pains.
- Being lightheaded and/or dizzy.
How to detect a natural gas leak
Below are a few ways that you can detect a gas leak in your home:
- Check for a rotten egg or sulfur smell – This is probably the easiest way to detect a gas leak in your home, as this smell is distinct and hard to mistake.
- Check your stove or range top – Gas stoves typically have blue flames – if there’s a natural gas leak, these flames may appear to be orange or red instead. (Additionally, shut off any appliances that can produce flame if you suspect a gas leak in order to prevent the gas from igniting and causing a house fire or explosion.)
- Listen for a whistling or hissing noise near your gas line – Pay attention to where you hear this hissing – if it’s near your air conditioning unit, it might be a leaking valve or an issue with the refrigerant line rather than a natural gas leak.
- Use a gas leak detector – There are various inexpensive handheld devices that can help you with gas leak detection available from places like Amazon as well as home improvement stores.
- Use the soapy water test – Mix 1 cup of water with 1 cup of liquid dish soap and put it into a spray bottle. After setting it to direct stream spray, spray the area where you think a leak is happening – if you see bubbles showing up, that can indicate a leak is happening.
Who to call in the case of a gas leak?
In the event of a natural gas leak, you can call the local fire department and/or your natural gas provider’s natural gas emergency line if one is available.
What should you NEVER do if you spot a gas leak
Before we go into what to do when there’s a gas leak, here’s what NOT to do:
- Don’t use matches or lighters – This is one of the largest dangers of a gas leak – any sparks or flames can ignite the natural gas and cause an explosion.
- Don’t search for the leak source – The longer you spend in your home, the more exposure to natural gas you’ll get – as we explained above, there are several negative health effects on humans from inhaling natural gas.
- Don’t use electronics in the house – Like matches and lighters, electronics are a potential source of ignition for natural gas. Electronics include things like your cell phone, light switches, or any electrical devices using batteries.
- Don’t try to repair the leak on your own – Leak repairs require a professional – plus, attempting to fix a natural gas leak on your own increases your exposure and possibility of negative health effects.
- Don’t stay indoors – Again with keeping your exposure to natural gas limited, you’ll want to head outside as soon as you suspect a leak or feel like you’re experiencing the associated negative health effects.
- Don’t keep windows and doors closed – When there’s a leak, you want to avoid having any natural gas accumulate.
- Don’t forget to report – Always contact professionals/your local fire department when you suspect a natural gas leak is occurring.
What to do in the event of a gas leak? How to fix a gas leak?
According to Energy.gov and Medical News Today, the first thing to do when you suspect a gas leak is to remove all people and pets from inside your home. After that’s done, leave the door open and contact your local fire department as well as your natural gas provider’s natural gas emergency line.
For your own safety, it’s not advisable to attempt to fix a gas leak on your own – a qualified technician should be dispatched to your home to repair the leak. Only when you’ve officially been notified by an authority or technician should you return to your home.
Finally, anyone that was in the affected home should visit a physician to check for persistent side effects or signs of long-term exposure from the natural gas leak.
Is natural gas safe in the home?
As long as you know what to do in a natural gas leak and know about taking proper precautions when using natural gas (e.g., keeping paper, paints, curtains, and other combustible materials away from furnaces, water heaters, gas ranges and other natural gas appliances), natural gas is safe to use in the home.
How to detox from natural gas poisoning?
Aside from removing yourself from the area where there’s a natural gas leakage, the best thing you can do is see a doctor for appropriate treatment for your natural gas poisoning symptoms.
Will a carbon monoxide detector detect a gas leak?
Carbon monoxide detectors will not detect a gas leak – natural gas and carbon monoxide are different types of gas. Natural gas detectors are available that either run on batteries or plug into an outlet.