Natural gas burning appliances are great for heating the home and heating your water supply while often carrying lower running costs than their electrical counterparts. However, it’s wise to know about natural gas safety in case something goes wrong. That something in particular being a gas leak.
Whether it’s caused by physical damage or improper installation, natural gas leaks can harm your health. It’s unlikely that a leak will lead to a mammoth explosion like in the movies, but gas leaks are dangerous. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to their warning signs, what to do in an emergency and the possible consequences of not acting accordingly. Here’s what you need to know about gas leaks.
5 Warning Signs of a Gas Leak
The below warning signs are common for a small leak, a large one and everything in between. But that doesn’t guarantee ever yone will be present in your home should you experience a leak. Check appliances and gas lines regularly, keeping a lookout for one or more of these 5 warning signs:
Rotten Egg Smell
Natural gas is odourless, so the suppliers add a unique compound named mercaptan to make the presence of gas easier to detect. This additive is easily recognisable as it smells similar to sulphur or rotten eggs. If you can smell rotten eggs within your home or on the property, then you’re likely experiencing a leak.
Natural gas arrives compressed and pressurised. So, as it escapes from a line or tank, the gas will produce a hissing or whistling sound. The noise can be faint, so it’s always a good idea to check pipes, connections and gas appliances regularly, listening closely for sounds.
Exposure to natural gas can affect the health of those in your household. Low-level exposure can cause headaches and breathing difficulties, while high levels of exposure can cause nausea, loss of consciousness, and suffocation. Take unexplainable headaches and breathing issues as a sign that it’s time to check for gas leaks.
Dying Plant Life
Dead, dying, or wilted plants can be a sign of a gas leak. The presence of natural gas prevents plants from absorbing oxygen, leading to their demise. If you can’t explain why household plants are dying, the cause could be a gas leak.
Higher Gas Bills
An unexpected increase in your gas bill can indicate a natural gas leak. Seasonal increases are to be expected as a natural gas heater could be in use during winter. However, increases during periods of minimal use are worth investigating.
So, check your home for gas leaks, and if you detect any of these warning signs, it’s time to take further steps, ensuring your safety and your family members.
Symptoms of Natural Gas Leaks
The most concerning factor of a gas leak is the physical symptoms. These pose significant health risks if the exposure continues or the gas leak worsens. According to Healthline, a gas leak reduces the amount of oxygen in your home or in a confined space. A slight oxygen reduction is even enough to cause serious symptoms.
Here are the symptoms you should look for:
- Breathing problems
- Eye and throat irritation
- Ringing in ears
Coming into direct contact with natural gas can cause blisters on the skin, and these symptoms can also affect pets.
Natural Gas Leak vs. Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Gas leaks are commonly confused with exposure to carbon monoxide, as the two can cause similar symptoms. Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs after the gas is burned and the fumes are not properly removed from a home. This is why all gas-burning appliances must be fitted with a flue, a slimline chimney or an exhaust for removing carbon monoxide from home. Carbon monoxide has no smell or taste, so call an expert immediately If you suspect CO is leaking into your home.
What to do When You Discover a Gas Leak
If you’ve discovered a gas leak, act fast and follow these simple steps to reduce the likelihood of it impacting your health.
Open Doors and Windows
Opening as many doors and windows as possible will help vent the natural gas away from the home. Do not take too long, though, as remaining inside increases the risks of long term exposure.
Shutoff Gas Supply
If possible, shutting off your gas supply will eliminate any further gas from leaking into your home. The natural gas supply valve will be located at the meter box or at the gas pipes leading into your home. Simply turn the valve 90 degrees to shut off the gas supply. If you can’t locate the valve, speak with the landlord or utility company for clarification.
Evacuate the Premises
Everyone indoors should evacuate as quickly as possible and regroup in a safe location. A preferable place is away from the property. Do not return until an expert says it’s safe to do so.
Call a Professional
Use a cell phone to contact a certified inspector, gas fitter, utility company or fire department if dealing with a serious leak. They can eliminate the leak and possibly provide the necessary repairs at the same time. If you’re unsure about specific numbers, dial 911.
Stay Safe by Installing a Gas Leak Detector
A gas leak detector operates just like a wall or ceiling mounted smoke detector but can alert occupants to gas leaks. These detectors are hard-wired into the home and provide audio and visual cues when gas is detected.
Just note that there are differences between gas leak detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Both natural gas and carbon monoxide have different compositions and require specific tools to detect their presence. Some units are dual function, while others are not.
You can purchase a gas leak detector from Walmart, Home Depot and all good hardware and electronic stores.
And with this knowledge, you should be better equipped to detect gas leaks and take the necessary steps to ensure the health and wellbeing of your family. Contact your local gas supplier or manufacturer of the gas appliances in use for additional health and safety information.