Natural gas used in homes smells like rotten eggs or sulfur. This distinctive smell is a safety precaution and is due to added mercaptan. The idea is that the foul rotten egg smell can make it much easier to detect a gas leak in the home.
There are several signs that can point toward a potential gas leak. Here are some of the most common ones to watch out for.
1. Unusual Smell
It’s a common misconception that natural gas has a distinct, unpleasant odor. In reality, the gas itself is odorless. However, when used for commercial and industrial purposes, it’s always mixed with agents, giving it a distinct smell that stands out easily. If you notice a smell that resembles rotten eggs, this is a worrying sign that could indicate a gas leak.
2. Bubbling in Your Water
Gas will also mix with still water and create bubbles in it. You can easily verify a potential leak by wiping down the area with a wet cloth, perhaps mixed with some soap. If it immediately starts to bubble, it is a good indicator of a gas leak.
3. Persistent Hissing Sound
You might also be able to hear the leak if you listen closely. Shut off all noise sources, stay still, and pay attention to your surroundings for a minute or two. If you hear any persistent hissing that doesn’t get interrupted or only stops briefly at irregular intervals, you might have a gas leak.
4. Plants Dying Unexpectedly
Gas leaks have a harmful effect on plants as they affect the oxygen contents of their soil. This will eventually cause your plants to suffocate – often before you’ve noticed any impact on your health. Pay special attention to small plants close to the ground. If any of them start dying for seemingly no reason, that’s not a good sign.
5. Changes in Your Own Health
If the leak is more serious and/or has existed for a while, you will eventually start to notice certain effects on your health. Common effects of gas poisoning include frequent headaches, persistent fatigue, nausea, and even fainting. You might have difficulty breathing in areas affected by the gas leak. If you notice anything of that sort, investigate the situation immediately because it likely indicates a major leak that’s deposited a lot of gas into the air inside your home.
1. Take Action Immediately
The first thing you do if you smell natural gas or suspect a gas leak is to take action immediately. Even if it turns out to be a false alarm, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Authorities will never scold you for alerting them of a potential problem with life-threatening consequences.
2. Evacuate the Premises Immediately
Your number one priority should be to get out of the house. Even if you don’t feel any negative effects on your health, you can’t risk staying around the gas leak once you’ve discovered it. So take your entire family with you and bring your pets too. Make sure that nobody enters the house until it’s been inspected. Don’t go back for any belongings. You never know how serious the issue is.
3. Alert Your Gas Company and Emergency Services
Next, you should get in touch with your gas provider and tell them that you suspect a leak. Ideally, call your emergency services as well. Your gas company will likely alert them anyway, but it can’t hurt to be one step ahead and ensure everyone is on the same page as early as possible.
4. Shut Off Your Gas Main
If you know where your gas main is and can reach it safely, it’s a good idea to shut it off. But only in cases where you won’t risk your life – or that of anyone else. Leave that part to the professionals if you have to get inside the house. This is especially true if your shutoff valve is in the basement or another low area of your home. It’s possible that it already has a considerable accumulation of gas and you risk passing out before you even sense anything is wrong.
5. Don’t Use Any Electronics Until You’re Safely Outside
Wait until you’re safely out of your house before calling anyone. Don’t use your phone until then. Don’t even take it out of your pocket. Don’t even attempt to turn it off. This may make matters worse as it will start drawing more power during its shutdown process.
Gas leaks are a serious issue that should always be treated with urgency. Even if you’re not sure you’re dealing with a leak, you must always do your due diligence and verify the situation before returning home. Ideally, it will turn out to be a false alarm. But in some cases, you can easily save the lives of your entire family by paying attention and acting quickly.