Photo: mevans via gettyimages.com

Natural gas heats about 50% of homes in the U.S. A smaller percentage use propane for their whole home heating or for individual appliances such as gas fireplaces and stoves. Both are highly flammable and can cause significant damage to your home if there is a leak. 

Inhaling leaking gas for long periods of time can also cause health risks such as headaches, fatigue, nausea, or trouble breathing. Understanding how to spot a leak and what to do when you smell gas is a critical safety measure for you, your family, and your home. 

How to Detect a Gas Leak

The smell from a gas leak is created for the homeowner’s safety. Suppliers add a rotten egg smell to their gas so that you can easily detect leaks. It is normal for there to be a lingering smell of gas after lighting a fire, while using a gas stove, or if a pilot light goes out. However, a sulfuric, rotten egg smell is cause for concern and may mean there is a gas leak. 

You may not be able to smell a gas leak if you have a decreased sense of smell, are already lightheaded, or have already been smelling the gas for a while. People with seasonal allergies or a cold, older people with a reduced sense of smell, or someone experiencing loss of smell due to COVID-19, may not be able to smell gas leaks. The gas leak smell may also be difficult to detect if there are other strong smells from cooking or other activities in the house. 

Other signs of gas leaks include discolored or dead vegetation near a gas line or dying plants in the home. You may hear a hissing sound or high-pitched whistling. Water bubbles can also be a sign of a gas leak. Other indicators of gas leaks may include physical signs, such as headaches or dizziness. 

Photo: BanksPhotos via gettyimages.com

What to Do if You Smell Gas

If you smell gas or suspect a gas leak, don’t light a match or candles, flip light switches, start a vehicle, use your phone, or do anything that would cause a spark. Even doorbells and thermometers can cause electric sparks. It is also not safe to look for the leak or try to fix it on your own. 

If you suspect a leak, your family should leave immediately and walk to a safe distance. Then, call 911, your local gas company, or your propane dealer. Don’t return to your home until the professionals say it’s safe.

Prevention and Education

Installing a carbon monoxide detector won’t alert you to natural gas leaks, but it can protect you from improperly burned fuels. Plan regular inspections of your gas lines to look for damage and signs of leaks. Severe weather storms may cause damage to pipelines, and post-storm is another beneficial time for you to do an inspection. Also, make sure to call 811 before you dig in your yard, as you may hit and damage a gas line. 

It is an excellent idea to teach your kids about gas safety, especially if they will be home alone. PropaneKids.Com has safety videos, information, and other resources you can use. 

Gas leaks are a serious concern! Knowing the indicators and what to do in the event of a leak is important to saving your home and family from harm.