Many homes rely on natural gas for a variety of heating and cooking appliances, and this presents a risk to homeowners.
Natural gas leaks can be dangerous. When it infiltrates your home, you might experience physical systems like ringing in your ears, chest pain, nosebleeds, dizziness, drowsiness and breathing problems. Gas leaks can also cause fires and explosions.
Issues with natural gas appliances can also lead to excess carbon monoxide in your home, which can be deadly. Recognizing a gas leak or problems can protect your house and family from a catastrophe, so let's look at what causes these leaks, how to detect them, and how to protect yourself.
What Causes Gas Leaks in the Home?
If you have natural gas in your home, you could have a leak at any time. They come from a few common sources.
Gas lines don't last forever. As they age, they corrode, and leaks can happen. You should be able to inspect the gas lines around your home, but you won't be able to see the ones underground. Tree roots and other landscaping can damage underground pipes.
Problems With Appliances
Gas lines also connect to home appliances, like stoves, water heaters and clothes dryers. If you have gas-powered appliances, you should have them inspected annually to be sure the connections are secure. The connection hardware can weaken and loosen over time and cause leaks.
Issues With Ventilation
Many gas appliances have ventilation fans to remove carbon monoxide — a byproduct of burning natural gas — from your home. When those fans stop working, carbon monoxide can build up in your home. As your appliances age, the pipes that evacuate carbon monoxide corrode and clog, which can cause dangerous gas to build up in your home.
Five Signs of a Home Gas Leak
Fortunately, gas leaks leave clues so homeowners can prevent catastrophes from happening. Recognizing the signs can help you learn how to find a gas leak and protect your family.
Rotten Egg Smell
Because natural gas is odorless, utility companies add a foul-smelling chemical to give gas a recognizable smell. If you smell rotten eggs or a sulfur-like odor, you might have a gas leak. This smell signals that you should evacuate your home and call your utility company or a licensed plumber.
If you have a gas leak, the natural gas will eventually replace the oxygen in your home. You might struggle to breathe, but your plants will show signs of it first. They need oxygen to survive, so a natural gas leak will kill them. You'll probably notice droopy leaves before the plants die.
Dead Landscaping Near Gas Pipes
When gas leaks happen in underground pipes, the natural gas will affect your landscaping. You might notice a dead spot in your grass or the bushes and trees near the point of entry at your home. Grass and leaves will turn yellow before they die.
Home gas leaks will affect your health and the health of your family and pets. Natural gas leaks can cause sickness, weakness, headaches and, eventually, suffocation. Some people also notice skin irritations, blisters and numbness from carbon monoxide poisoning. If you think you are suffering from gas or carbon monoxide poisoning, call an ambulance and go to the hospital.
Gas furnaces and appliances have blue flames when they are running correctly. If something is wrong with the appliance, the flame will turn yellow. This could give off excess carbon monoxide, so a consistently yellow flame is a sign you need to have the appliance serviced.
What Should I Do If I Suspect a Gas Leak?
Before you do anything about a gas leak in your house, the first step is to evacuate your home immediately. Don't use any appliances or flip any light switches. After you've reached a safe location, call your utility company. Most service providers have emergency phone numbers you can use to alert them about gas leaks. Your gas company will tell you what to do next, and they might suggest you call a local, licensed plumber for immediate help. Do not ignore the leak and stay in your home.
How To Prevent a Gas Leak
The best method of preventing gas leaks is to have routine inspections of your gas lines and gas-powered appliances. Annual inspections can reveal potential problems, so you can take preventative measures to repair them.
A gas leak in the house can be deadly, so homeowners should take precautions to prevent major catastrophes. With annual inspections and the know-how to deal with signs of any issues, you'll have peace of mind that your family is safe from natural gas leaks.