How to Spot a Gas Leak

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Millions of homes across the United States use natural gas. Methane is the primary type of natural gas that is used for heating homes, cooking and producing electricity. Sometimes propane is utilized in certain parts of the country. Natural gas gains notoriety in the news after a disaster has occurred. While this is rare, it is something that all homeowners should be aware of and know how to spot a gas leak.

A warning sign that there may be a gas leak occurring outside of your home is that flowers and trees are mysteriously dying. Vegetation can be sensitive to even a small gas leak. While there may be other causes of vegetation die offs, especially if you are experiencing a drought or insect infestation, it is a good idea to investigate. Generally if large shade trees and your grass suddenly look sick or start dying, it can be associated with a gas leak that is occurring underground.

Since natural gas is a clear and odorless gas, additives are formulated into the product to make it smell like rotten eggs. This is supposed to make it easier to detect a leak in your home. However, some people are unable to make the connection or just don’t have a good sense of smell. There are some ways to check if you suspect that one of your gas lines might be leaking. Take a spray bottle and fill it with soapy water. The soap helps the water cling to the pipe in order to give you time to observe if there is in fact a leak. Spray the solution on the pipes in question, step back and observe. If the solution bubbles up, there is gas leaking out of the pipe. Leaks are more likely to occur along joints in the pipe. If the leak is large enough, you might even hear the gas hissing out of the pipe.

In some instances, natural gas water heaters can become faulty and start to leak gas into your home. This can occur if the thermocouple on your water heater is faulty. The thermocouple opens the valve to control the gas flow into the water heater if the pilot light is on. However, if this part is not functioning correctly, gas could be leaking into your home, causing a risk of an explosion. Check your water heater regularly to ensure that it is functioning correctly. If you suspect a problem, replace your water heater.

Gas stoves are popular and can pose some risks if not maintained properly. The most common problem with a gas stove is the flexible tubing connecting the stove to the central gas line. This tubing can breakdown over time or become pinched between the wall and the stove. This can lead to tiny holes in the tubing, allowing gas to leak into your home. Other problems could be if the primary pilot light were to go out, or if the valves become faulty. Maintaining your gas stove can prevent a gas leak.

Gas dryers can have lint buildup on the vents. These vents allow the exhaust to leave your home. If they become clogged, the exhaust can pose a risk to you and your home. As with a gas stove, a gas dryer has flexible tubing that connects it to the main gas line. Inspect this tubing occasionally to ensure that it is still in good working order. Another solution is that you can purchase flexible tubing that has an emergency shutoff valve if a leak is detected.

The safest line of defense if you have natural gas in your home is to have a carbon monoxide detector. Natural gas contains carbon monoxide (CO2). CO2 poisoning symptoms include a headache, weakness, dizziness, shortness of breath, vomiting, nausea, confusion, blurred vision, loss of consciousness, and eventually death. As with a smoke detector, make sure to change the batteries regularly to ensure you and your families safety.

Natural gas is relatively safe, but you still need to be prepared and know how to spot a gas leak in your home. Know who to call if you suspect a gas leak. You don’t want to become a statistic of another preventable natural gas disaster.

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Kevin Schultz is a professional journalist with over 15 years of writing and media experience. He is a full-time contributor to the Themocracy Online News Blog and his insightful writing has been enjoyed by thousands.