Natural gas and propane can provide an efficient way to power your home’s hot water, heat, and appliances. But if a gas line deteriorates, you can end up with a leak on your hands. Unfortunately, natural gas won’t always emit a smell when it escapes. That means you can have a leak in your home and not even know it!
Gas leaks can result in a host of health issues and even fatality in certain situations. With so much at risk, the last thing you want to do is let a gas leak go on for too long. Although it’s not immediately obvious when you have a leak on your hand, there are some methods you can use to figure out if gas is escaping.
Although it’s not ideal, you might first discover you have a leak if you and your family members suddenly experience symptoms associated with a gas leak. Gas leaks will change the oxygen levels in your home. This will vary in severity based on what kind of leak you’re dealing with. But these are the general symptoms you might experience:
Gas leaks are subtle in smell but very obvious in bills. They can even go on for months undetected. But if there’s a significant amount of gas escaping from your system, it can cause a spike in your gas bill. Pay attention to any sudden changes in your monthly invoice. If you notice a huge, unexplainable increase in your charges, you should have your system inspected for leaks.
Sometimes a gas leak will emit a low hissing sound. This usually means gas is escaping at a fairly fast rate. Any noise coming from your HVAC system usually isn’t a good sign. This hissing might be linked to a leaking valve, loose refrigerant line, or a bad compressor.
A gas leak can be unhealthy for all living things. Your plants might produce oxygen but they also need a supply of it to survive. If they don’t have enough of it, they will slowly start to die. House plants could end up being your canary in a coal mine if you have a gas leak. If you notice many of your plants starting to wither away at the same time (and you’re keeping up with your watering) this could be a sign of a gas leak.
Natural gas doesn’t have an odor, but utility companies will put a substance called mercaptan (aka methanethiol) in your home’s gas in order to better detect leaks. This chemical is often described as smelling like rotten eggs or sulfur. Leaks won’t always have this smell. But if you do happen to notice this odor, leave your house immediately and call in an emergency HVAC professional.
Sometimes a gas leak will create a fine mist or fog around your home. This is caused by gas escaping from an underground supply line. Condensation collects and forms a low-hanging, unnatural haze around your home.
If you notice other signs of a gas leak but still aren’t sure, you can use the bubble test. What you’ll want to do is:
Carbon monoxide is created any time fuel burns. The systems in your home that run on gas will have a flue meant to send carbon monoxide outside. But sometimes, malfunctions can lead to a carbon monoxide leak. At best, this noxious gas will cause confusion, shortness of breath, and nausea. At worst, it can lead to loss of consciousness and even death.
The best way to detect carbon monoxide is to install a carbon monoxide detector. Every modern house should come equipped with a carbon monoxide detector. But if you live in an older home, you can get a version that simply plugs into a wall outlet.
If you notice any sign that you have a gas leak, exit your home and call a professional to inspect your system ASAP. If you have a carbon monoxide leak, you could lose consciousness in just 3 hours so it’s important to act fast. You might first think to call your utility company but all they can do is cut off your gas. A plumbing or HVAC expert will be able to turn off your gas, inspect the issue, and resolve it.
If you live in Thornton or the Northern Colorado area and you suspect that you have a gas leak, don’t hesitate to call To the T Plumbing & Heating! We are open Monday - Friday from 7 AM to 5 PM. Contact us and we’ll be happy to inspect your home for any possible gas leaks!