If you have a gas leak in your home and it goes undetected, the consequences can be harmful and even deadly. Gas leaks can, unfortunately, easily be missed, particularly if you don’t know what to look for or how to identify them. Millions of homeowners in the United States rely on natural gas for heating their homes, cooking food, heating their water, and drying their clothing. While having natural gas is usually safe, it can also be dangerous. Thus, having an adequate understanding of natural gas and gas leaks and knowing how to identify them is critical.
Here, our Ocala plumbers with Sunshine Plumbing and Gas, discuss everything you need to know about gas leaks and how to detect them in your home. For more information about our plumbing services and to request a free estimate for service, please our plumbing repair company!
What Is A Natural Gas Leak?
Natural gas or flammable gas consists primarily of hydrocarbons, such as methane, and naturally occurs underground and is used as a source of fuel. It also comprises non-hydrocarbon gases and other types of natural gas liquids. Natural gas leaks when there is a leak in a gas line, sewer line, or an appliance that uses natural gas.
When a gas leak takes place, the natural gas previously contained in the pipeline or the gas-using appliance flows out and enters open areas of air. While gas lines in good condition are unlikely to leak, old gas lines with corrosion are more likely to spring leaks, as the outer covering of the pipe slowly wears out and gives way to fractures and cracks in the inner portions of the pipe covering.
Dangers Of A Gas Leak
The hydrocarbons present in natural gas, particularly methane, can have potentially devastating effects on humans and animals. Although natural gas is considered non-toxic, it can cause significant issues. If your home’s gas line or the appliances that use gas in your home are not properly maintained or if they were not professionally installed, a leak can occur, and the natural gas seeping into your home can produce a health risk and safety hazard. Other potential sources for harmful fumes in your home can include gas generators that are not properly ventilated and attached garage spaces.
Natural gas leaks can increase the cost of your monthly utility bills, result in property damage, the need for costly repairs, and dead and dying houseplants and vegetation. Gas leaks can also result in explosions when flammable vapors are exposed to open air. In terms of health consequences, gas leaks can cause you to feel dizzy, nauseous, and fatigued and result in loss of concentration, irregular breathing, loss of consciousness, and/or asphyxiation.
How To Detect A Gas Leak
Knowing how to determine whether your home has a natural gas leak, knowing the signs to look out for, and understanding what to do is critical for the safety of the members of your household, the habitability of your home, and the structural integrity of your living space. If you are concerned about the condition of your pipes, a plumber in Ocala at Sunshine Plumbing and Gas can help. If you detect any of the following signs of a natural gas leak in your home or you believe you have been exposed to natural gas vapors, call 911 right away.
The best ways to identify a gas leak include installing high-quality, reliable gas leak detectors in and around your home. To be safe, you should purchase a detector or sensor that has the capacity to identify the presence of more than one type of gas or noxious vapor. Your detector should be able to detect combustible gases, such as methane and propane, and toxic gases, like carbon monoxide and radon gas.
Check For A Rotten Egg Small
In its original state, natural gas does not produce any odors or have any color visible to the naked eye. Due to the potential harm a natural gas leak can cause, companies that supply natural gas infuse natural gas with odorants, which are types of chemicals that produce a smell should a leak occur. This is intended to make gas leaks easier to detect. The smell produced by these odorants is similar to that of sulfur or rotten eggs. The more potent or the stronger you sense the odor of sulfur or rotten eggs, the more likely your home has a natural gas leak.
Listen For A Hissing Sound
If there is a substantial or large gas leak in your home’s pipes or the gas-using appliances in your home, you may be able to hear a hissing or whistling noise. If you hear a hissing or whistling noise, try to carefully identify where the sound comes from. If you hear these noises coming from your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system, the problem could be a leaking valve, a problematic compressor, or an issue with the refrigerant line. If these noises come from your pipes or appliances, you could have a gas leak.
Watch For Dead Or Dying Plants
If you have houseplants, you probably know that your plants can become diseased, sick, or die for any number of reasons. But dead, dying, or problematic growth in plants in your home or even those outside of your home can potentially signal the presence of a natural gas leak. This is particularly true for plants that are well cared for and those that were formerly in excellent health. When natural gas leaks from pipes or appliances, the vapors can penetrate the plant roots and prevent oxygen absorption, resulting in plant health problems. If you spot wilting, dead plants, dying plants, or smaller-than-usual leaves, you may have a gas leak.
Inspect Your Gas Bill
If your home uses natural gas and you use relatively the same amount of natural gas from month to month, a spike in your reported usage or an increase in your gas bill may be cause for concern. While seasonal increases in gas usage, such as during the fall and winter when heat is used more abundantly than other seasons, is to be expected, unexplained or unaccounted-for increases may suggest a leak inside or outside your home. In some cases, a gas leak can be minimal enough that you may not notice other signs, but they can show up on your gas bill.
Look Out For Physical Symptoms
As noted, gas leaks can produce physical symptoms in humans and animals. Symptoms indicating exposure to low or moderate amounts of natural gas can include dizziness, lethargy, nausea, problems breathing, and headaches or migraines. Symptoms indicating exposure to high amounts of natural gas include fatigue or sluggishness, severe migraines or headaches, losing consciousness, nausea and vomiting, difficulty concentrating, issues with memory, and suffocating or asphyxiation.