Seventeen people die each year because of gas leaks and the explosions they cause.
Countless more fall ill because of exposure to a natural gas leak. Exposure to these leaks can cause many different symptoms, both minor and severe.
Still, more people lose their homes to fires and explosions caused by leaks. Even the leaks that don’t cause any harm or serious damage require repairs by a plumbing expert.
It’s important to understand the signs that indicate a gas leak. Knowing what to look for can help you to be prepared to protect your family and yourself in the event of a leak.
Signs That You May Have a Gas Leak in Your Home
The sooner you realize that you have a gas leak, the faster you can take action. That’s why it’s important to know and remember the signs of a leak.
The signs come in several forms. Some are tough to notice. Others are very obvious.
This means plenty of chances to catch a potential leak before any serious harm occurs.
Natural gas is actually odorless on its own.
If it weren’t for the chemical mercaptan that’s added to the gas, you wouldn’t be able to smell it. This chemical is added for the sole purpose of alerting you that there is a leak.
Thanks to that chemical addition, natural gas smells a lot like rotten eggs. Some people also describe it as having a garlic-like scent.
The strong, unpleasant odor is one of the fastest ways of detecting a gas leak. If you smell either scent in your home, leave immediately.
Depending on where the gas leak is coming from and what kind of damage has been caused, the leak may make noise.
Sometimes leaks cause a low hissing sound. It’ll sound just like air blowing through a tight space.
The sound usually comes from the source of the leak itself. If the pipe that is leaking is close enough to where you are, you’ll hear it.
A hissing sound may also come from appliances that are connected to the natural gas line.
Gas stoves are the most common sources of a hissing noise when there’s a leak. Some washers and dryers may also be the source of the sound.
A leak in a natural gas line means that air is rushing out, which causes a disturbance in the area around the leak.
If you notice dirt or dust blowing in a space when there is no wind or breeze, there may be a leak.
Curtains moving, paper rustling or other little movements can also indicate a leak.
If the natural gas pipeline runs under a body of water and there is a leak, bubbles will appear in the water. Bubbles in standing, otherwise still water often means a leak.
This can occur in ponds or even landscaping features around your home.
These details may be the hardest indicators to notice. But if you happen to notice any one of these signs, look for other indicators that a leak may be present in your home.
What Could Happen If There’s a Gas Leak in Your Home
How much of a threat there is to your home depends on how large the leak is.
Natural gas is highly combustible. If there’s a large leak in your home and any kind of spark occurs, it could cause a fire or explosion.
The spark can come from electrical devices. Hanging up a telephone, flipping a light switch, or even turning on the TV can cause enough of a spark.
Either can be devastating for your home, and cause injury or even death for anyone inside.
Small leaks are unlikely to spark a fire or explosion, but they can still cause other kinds of damage. One of the worst side effects of leaks are the ones that they can cause in people who get too close to them.
The Danger Gas Leaks Pose to Your Health
Natural gas is toxic when inhaled.
In small amounts, exposure to natural gas can cause headaches or nausea. The symptoms become more severe with exposure to higher amounts of gas or long term exposure.
Natural gas is safe for use in your home. When everything is working right, it’s unlikely that you’ll experience any side effects.
But when natural gas doesn’t burn off properly, dangers arise. The gas begins to emit carbon monoxide, which can be very dangerous.
Exposure to carbon monoxide in low amounts, like natural gas, causes headaches, and nausea. It can also cause an upset stomach, blurry vision, exhaustion, and dizziness.
The symptoms are similar to the ones you get when you have the flu. But they will come on quickly, and everyone in the household will feel them. Leaving your home quickly should make the symptoms go away.
Prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide can be deadly. That’s why it’s so important to get out of your home right away if you suspect that there may be a leak.
What To Do If You Suspect a Leak
If the smell of gas is strong, or if many other signs are present, leave your home immediately. Do not flip lights off or call for help from your home. Find a safe place far from the property and call 911 immediately.
If the smell or other signs of a gas leak are minor and you aren’t feeling ill, go through your home and open windows. This helps to keep the gas from building up in your home.
Turn off your pilot lights, and then leave your home. Go to a safe place and call 911 or your utility company.
If the authorities or utility company doesn’t locate a leak, it doesn’t mean there isn’t one. If you still suspect that there may be a leak, it’s a good idea to get a second opinion on your plumbing.
After the gas is turned off, you’ll need to call in the experts to fix your faulty pipes. They will repair your gas leak and run a gas test to make sure the leaks and gas are gone.
Make sure to choose a quality company that you can trust, to help you avoid future leaks.