What to do if you think you have a gas leak in your home.

In the plumbing industry, we have a healthy respect for the dangers of gas leaks. If there is too much gas and a flame occurs, an explosion can happen.

Detecting Gas Leaks

There is a distinct odorant called Mercaptan added to the gas in your home intentionally. It smells like rotten eggs and is not a natural characteristic of gas. Its purpose is to help you detect a gas leak and pinpoint its source. If you suspect a gas leak and detect a gas odor, the wise course of action is to call a plumber to assess the issue and promptly repair the leak.

Safety Measures

If you return home and immediately smell gas upon opening the door, refrain from turning on any light switches. Light switches typically contain a tiny spark. If your house is filled with gas, the prudent action is to step back. Do not enter. Do not switch on any lights. Instead, go to a neighbor’s and request immediate assistance for a gas emergency.

Shutting Off Gas

If you know how to shut off your gas, that should be your initial step in resolving the problem. Every gas appliance is equipped with a gas shut-off valve, usually located behind the appliance. These valves typically have lever-type handles. When the lever is parallel to the pipe, the valve is on. When it’s perpendicular to the pipe, the valve is off. If possible, shut off the gas appliance.

Gas Emergency Response

If you are experiencing a gas emergency, the gas company will dispatch assistance, and they do not charge for locating gas leaks. They do not handle leak repairs; their focus is on locating the leak and ensuring safety by turning off the gas. In some cases, they may use a heavy putty material to seal the leak without turning off the gas.

Most gas leaks, especially small ones, are not highly combustible and do not pose a significant risk of a house explosion. If you detect a small gas leak and smell gas, it’s advisable to open some windows to ventilate the area and dissipate the gas odor quickly.

Types of Gas

Most of the gas in the St. Paul and Minneapolis metro areas is natural gas, which is lighter than air. Consequently, when natural gas leaks, it rises upward.

Another common type of gas is liquid petroleum (LP) or propane gas, often stored in tanks similar to those used for gas grills. These tanks are larger and are typically located outside in yards. LP gas is heavier than air, and when it leaks, it settles, making it potentially more hazardous.

Propane gas also has a higher flash point, making any trouble with it more likely to result in severe explosions. It is more easily combustible and more dangerous than the natural gas found in most residential homes. LP or propane gas is most often found in more rural areas.

Locating Gas Leaks

If the leak is small enough and you are willing to attempt to locate it, you can create a mixture of dishwashing soap and water. If you suspect the leak’s location, use a sponge to apply the soapy mixture, and the gas escaping from the leak will cause bubbles to form, indicating the exact leak location. However, in more dangerous situations, it is essential to call a plumber immediately.

Common Locations for Leaks

Leaks are often found at threaded joints. Most modern appliances, such as ranges and gas stoves, use spark or glow-igniting systems. In older appliances, a standing pilot light, which runs continuously, was used.

Sometimes, when the pilot light goes out and you detect a gas odor, typically, not enough gas has escaped to pose a danger. In such cases, open windows to dissipate the gas odor and relight the pilot flame. While some water heaters still have standing pilots, many are now equipped with spark or glow ignitors.

Contact a Professional

Gas leaks are nothing to take lightly. If you suspect a gas leak or smell the distinctive odor, it is crucial to contact a professional plumber immediately. They have the expertise and necessary tools to locate and safely repair any gas leaks in your home. Do not attempt to fix a gas leak yourself; leave it to the professionals for safety reasons.

If you are experiencing a gas leak or simply looking for a reliable plumber in the St. Paul and Minneapolis metro area, do not hesitate to contact St. Paul Pipeworks today.

Yours Truly,

Matthew Dettwiler

Social Media Manager

FAQs About Gas Leaks and Plumbing Safety

Q: What should I do if I smell gas in my house?

A: If you smell gas in your home, your priority is safety. Do not turn on any lights or appliances, as they can create sparks. Leave your house, go to a neighbor’s, and call for immediate assistance from a gas professional or the gas company.

Q: Why is there an odor in natural gas?

A: Natural gas is odorless, but an odorant called mercaptan is intentionally added to it. This odor helps you detect gas leaks. If you smell this distinctive odor, it’s crucial to take immediate action.

Q: How can I shut off the gas in my home?

A: If you suspect a gas leak and know how to safely shut off the gas, locate the turn-off valve for each gas appliance and turn it off. The valves typically have lever-type handles. When parallel to the pipe, the valve is on; when perpendicular, it’s off.

Q: Is a small gas leak dangerous?

A: Small gas leaks, while not highly combustible, can be hazardous and should not be ignored. It’s best to ventilate the area by opening windows to dissipate the gas odor and call a professional plumber to assess and repair the issue.

Q: What should I do if I suspect a gas leak in my propane tank?

A: Propane gas is heavier than air and can settle, making it potentially more hazardous. If you suspect a propane gas leak, do not attempt to locate it yourself. Leave the area immediately and contact a qualified gas professional to handle the situation safely.

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