Due to its affordability and convenience, gas is a popular way of powering home appliances like furnaces and water heaters. However, this helpful fuel isn’t entirely perfect. If you develop a leak in a gas line, you can end up with toxic, flammable gas inside of your home. To help your family and property stay as safe as possible, it’s essential to know how to spot a gas leak.
Check Your Home for These Signs of a Gas Leak
Gas leaks can happen in a variety of ways. Sometimes, gas can leak from a loose fitting or valve near an appliance. In other cases, it can come from a broken gas pipe or corroded gas line. Whatever the cause, gas leaks can affect every part of your home. Here are some of the many signs of a potential gas leak.
The Scent of Rotten Eggs
Natural gas is completely colorless and odorless. However, gas companies add a special chemical to gas to make it smell before they send it to their customers. This allows people to detect gas leaks more easily. Any time you experience an unexplained smell of sulfur or rotting eggs, you most likely have a gas leak. You can smell a small whiff of this scent when you turn on certain gas appliances, but if the smell is strong and remains after turning on the item, it’s a sign that gas is leaking out of somewhere.
Air Bubbles in Water Outdoors
The pipes that carry gas to your house run underneath your lawn. Though they’re usually very stable, shifting soil or nearby construction can break them. When this happens, the gas will seep up through the soil until it can reach the air. This process creates visible bubbles in standing water. If you keep seeing bubbles in puddles and muddy spots, it often means that one of your gas pipes is developing a leak.
Unusually High Gas Bills
If you use natural gas, make sure to regularly check your gas bill. When there is an increase in gas usage even though you haven’t been using your appliances more often, you probably have a leak. In these cases, the higher-than-usual bill is because your utility meter is registering excessive gas usage. Just keep in mind that it’s possible to have a gas leak even if your bill remains stable. If the gas leak is on the public side of the meter, the gas company won’t be charging you for extra gas usage.
Strange Hissing Sounds
The gas in your pipes is usually under a lot of pressure. Any time there is a small gap in the system, the gas can rush out at an incredibly fast velocity. When this happens, it’s possible to hear a hissing noise. Usually, the hissing sound related to a gas leak will be a persistent buzz that keeps going even when all your appliances are turned off. Though less common, some people also report hearing higher-pitched squealing or whistling noises similar to a tea kettle.
Gas makes it hard for plants to absorb enough oxygen, so with enough gas exposure, they’ll start to die. This is especially noticeable in outdoor gas leaks. Grass, trees, and other plants above a leaking gas line will look yellowish or wilted. Even though the effects are less obvious indoors, you might also find that some of your houseplants will die when you have a gas leak. Previously healthy plants can droop or look stunted, and over time, they will end up dying.
Damaged Gas Lines and Pipes
Taking the time to regularly inspect your gas lines is a good idea. Not all gas leaks happen due to physical damage, but sometimes, you can view the area where the gas is escaping. Any gas line with a crack or a hole will be leaking gas. You should also check for rust and corrosion around the fittings because this can allow gas to escape. Gas pipes are typically buried, so spotting damage is less common. However, if you have had your lawn dug up for other construction projects and spot a cracked pipe, you probably have a leak.
Keep an Eye Out for Physical Symptoms of Gas Exposure
Even if you don’t spot any common signs of a gas leak, it can still impact your health. If you notice any of these symptoms of gas exposure, it’s a good idea to get your air quality tested right away.
Common Gas Exposure Symptoms
The most common signs of natural gas poisoning are headaches, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, and irregular breathing. If you walk into a room and begin experiencing any of these symptoms, there’s a chance you might have a gas leak. At higher levels of exposure, people can also have memory problems, confusion, lightheadedness, chest pain, and vomiting. If you remain in a place with extremely high levels of gas for too long, you can experience unconsciousness and even death.
When you’re consistently exposed to small levels of gas, you might not have any big problems like fainting spells. However, it can still impact your health on a more gradual level. Many people with gas leaks end up dealing with persistent, flu-like symptoms. You might constantly feel achy, have a sore throat, or feel fatigued, but unlike the common flu, these symptoms won’t disappear after a week or two.
Illness in Pets, Seniors, and Children
Gas exposure tends to be worse for those who are physically weaker. Even if you feel mostly fine, other members of your family could start to get sick. You might notice that children, pets, or elderly people in the house are dealing with gas exposure symptoms while you continue to feel okay.
What to Do if You Suspect a Gas Leak
If you suspect a leak but aren’t smelling gas and don’t feel sick, you should open the windows, turn any pilot lights off, exit the area, and call your gas company. They can get an expert out to locate the leak and advise you on safety steps. While you wait, do not use electrical equipment in the home, smoke, or light any candles. Any action that could start a fire is unsafe because gas is extremely flammable.
In cases where there is a strong odor or you are feeling physically ill, it’s important to leave the area promptly instead of bothering to open any windows or mess with your appliances. Get any other family members, exit the home, leave the doors open, and wait several feet away while you contact your gas company for help. Don’t forget that gas can be explosive, so you need to avoid doing things like sitting on your porch while you wait. In cases where people are showing symptoms of gas poisoning, visit the emergency room for more assistance.
If you want to reduce your risk of encountering a gas leak, make sure you get licensed professionals to handle all your gas appliances. Lightfoot Mechanical is fully qualified to deal with gas-powered products. We help Weatherford residents with a variety of other services, including HVAC, plumbing, and electrical work. To schedule your service call with Lightfoot Mechanical, contact us today.