What to Do if You Smell Gas

What to Do if You Smell Gas

What to Do if You Smell Gas

Natural gas, when used properly, is a safe, efficient and relatively eco-friendly power source. However, if a leak occurs, it can lead to a variety of catastrophic situations, including fires and poisoning. In this guide, you'll learn how to detect a gas leak and deal with it quickly and safely.

How to Recognize the Smell of Natural Gas

Natural gas gives off a strong, foul odor similar to that of sulfur, rotten eggs or the spray of a skunk. This smell is deliberately added to the gas by manufacturers to help customers recognize gas leaks. If you detect this unpleasant smell, it is critical to take action immediately. Before concluding that it is natural gas, however, make sure the smell isn't coming from somewhere else, such as your sewage, garage or a dead animal outside.

How to Recognize the Smell of Natural Gas

Keep in mind that, if the smell is faint, this is not necessarily a cause for alarm — it's perfectly normal for a natural gas smell to linger if you're lighting your stove or when the pilot light for one of your appliances goes out.

It's also important to keep in mind that, even though natural gas has a distinctive odor, you may be unable to smell it if:

  • Your sense of smell is diminished.
  • You're too far from the source of the leak to detect it.
  • You have a cold, allergies, sinus condition or other physical condition.
  • You're unable to detect the odor due to a prolonged period of exposure to it.
  • You're using alcohol, tobacco, drugs or certain medications.
  • Other odors are masking the odor of the natural gas.

Luckily, there are various other things you can do if you suspect a gas leak:

  • Hearing a hissing/whistling sound: Depending on the location of the leak, you might hear a soft whistling or hissing coming from the gas line.
  • Seeing the formation of bubbles on the leak area: If you think there might be a leak in your gas line, mix some water and soap and then put some on the spot where you suspect the leak is. If bubbles start to appear, this means that escaping gas is causing the mixture to foam, and you have a gas leak on your hands.
  • Seeing dust blown around outside your house by the suspected area: If there is a leak in your natural gas outside the home, you might notice debris and dust getting blown around as a result.
  • Dying or dead plants: If you have plants that are dead, stunted or dying in or outside of your home, this may be another sign of a natural gas leak. This is especially likely if you've been taking proper care of them. When natural gas is present, a plant's roots are unable to absorb oxygen, and it may wilt as a result. Natural gas can also cause trees to grow leaves that are smaller than normal and cause sections of your grass to turn yellowish.
  • Experiencing natural gas poisoning symptoms: Inhaling small amounts of natural gas may cause dizziness, headaches, nausea, irregular breathing and fatigue. Breathing in high amounts can lead to natural gas poisoning, the symptoms of which include severe headaches, fatigue, nausea, memory problems, passing out and suffocation. If you think you're experiencing symptoms of natural gas inhalation, immediately contact a healthcare professional.
  • Above-average gas usage: If your home is using a higher amount of gas than before, this may be a sign of a gas leak. While sometimes increases in gas usage are expected — like when the weather gets colder — if there is an unexpected increase in your gas usage, this may suggest a gas leak.

What to Do if You Smell Gas

What should you do if you smell gas? If you believe that gas is leaking in your home, follow these steps:

What to Do if You Smell Gas

  • Do not create sparks or flames. Put out any open flames immediately and don't use anything capable of creating sparks or electrical charges. This includes devices like light switches, rotary telephones, thermostats and doorbells. These sources can produce sparks or flames that may start a fire or trigger an explosion.
  • Evacuate the area right away. If you detect the presence of gas, you and your family should leave the house immediately. Even if you smell natural gas outside, you should still evacuate the area. Keep in mind that electrical equipment and vehicles can be a safety hazard. Get a safe distance away from the leak and don't try to fix or troubleshoot the issue yourself.
  • Turn the gas off. If safe, shut off your main gas supply valve. To shut the valve, just turn it clockwise.
  • Report the gas leak. Whether it be from your neighbor's home or another building nearby, immediately contact your gas company. If you can't reach them, call 911.
  • Don't return until deemed safe. Don't return to the area until your emergency responder, gas company or service technician says it's safe to.
  • Have your system inspected. Before attempting to use your gas appliances, your service technician or propane provider will need to inspect your system to confirm that it's 100% leak-free.

What NOT to Do if You Smell Gas

If you suspect there is a gas leak, refrain from all of the following actions:

  • Don't stay on the premises if you detect a strong natural gas smell or find other evidence of a leak.
  • Don't smoke or create flames or sparks.
  • Don't turn on appliances, lights or electrical switches as electrical charges can create sparks.
  • Don't open or close windows.
  • Don't use a phone inside the house.
  • Don't open the garage door.

How to Prevent a Gas Leak

The simplest way to deal with gas leaks is by preventing them from happening in the first place. You can do this by properly maintaining all of your gas appliances:

  • Furnace: Make sure to inspect and tune up your gas furnace once a year. This process should include cleaning and testing the burning elements, thoroughly examining the heat exchanger for cracks and inspecting the ventilation system.
  • Water heater: Have your water heater inspected and flushed every year, no matter what its fuel source is. This will maximize the unit's lifespan and efficiency.
  • Fireplace: Have your gas fireplace installed by a licensed professional and inspected once a year. During the inspection of your gas unit, the technician will typically clean your ports and vents, but they won't necessarily inspect or clean your chimney. If this service is not included, make sure to schedule a separate service.
  • Dryers, ranges and ovens: These appliances do not typically need to be routinely inspected by a professional, but there are recommended maintenance procedures for each. For these appliances, check your owner's manual.

Contact Shipley Energy for Your Natural Gas Needs

You can learn more about our residential and commercial natural gas services by visiting our site, where you can also check rates. You can also contact us directly by using our contact form or by calling us at 1-866-789-5560.

Contact Shipley Energy for Your Natural Gas Needs