How to check for gas leaks

Natural gas is an important source of power, used in millions of homes around the world for everyday activities like heating and cooking. While it is a relatively clean energy generator, this colourless gas is also highly flammable as well as harmful when inhaled for a prolonged time. For that reason, it is crucial to prevent and identify any gas leaks in your home to avoid fires, injuries and financial loss.

In this article, we  explain the key points when checking for a gas leak in your property. We will provide the necessary information to ensure your safety while you await the visit of a licensed professional to come and conduct a gas safety check.

What is a gas leakage?

Many residential appliances, such as stoves, furnaces and fireplaces, are fuelled by natural gas. Lack of maintenance, improper installation or malfunctions in these appliances can cause gas to escape from its containment, becoming a hazard to your health and the environment. Ageing or corroding of pipelines and fittings may also produce leaks as gas  seeps through faulty connections into areas where there are plants, humans and fire sources.

What are Signs of a Gas Leak?

While natural gas is odourless, it typically contains an additive with a distinctive pungent smell, like rotten eggs, that utility companies introduce to alert you in the event of a leakage. However, one should not rely solely on this factor to detect a gas leak, as olfactory sensitivity varies from one person to another. Age, illness or syndromes like colds and allergies can hamper your ability to recognise the smell of gas. There may also be competing odours in the environment, such as tobacco smoke or cooking smells, that interfere with the detection of a gas leak.

Fortunately, there are other signs of a gas leak that you can watch out for. Here are the main ones:

Hissing or whistling sound near gas appliances or pipes

As gas escapes through small perforations on pipes, connections or appliances, the pressure produces a hissing sound, similar to a whistle. A roaring noise, on the other hand, would suggest a larger leakage. Turn off every appliance around your gas line or appliance and pay attention to the noises.

Difficult time breathing (less oxygen in the house)

As gas fills the air in an indoor space, it reduces the amount of oxygen available. Low levels of oxygen in the body can be fatal. Irregular breathing and any other physical symptoms, such as headaches, drowsiness, fatigue and nausea, are the first signs of natural gas poisoning. Disorientation or difficulty in breathing observed in pets are also signs to look out for.

Gas appliances (stoves give blue flame)

Most gas powered appliances have a pilot light with a flame. In regular conditions, this flame is small, and either yellow or blue with a yellow tip, which indicates that there is sufficient oxygen for combustion. A red or orange flame suggests an abnormal level of oxygen, possibly caused by a gas leak in the pipeline. Check your gas appliances regularly for these signs. Same thing applies to the flame in stoves and furnaces.

How to Prevent Gas Leaks?

There are other indications of a gas leak in your home that you should be aware of, such as dying plants or yellow patches of grass, as well as inexplicable spikes in your gas bills. Natural Gas leakages lead to a series of consequences that are financially challenging at the least, and fatal in the worst case scenario. It is always best to be safe than sorry, thus we recommend the following measures to prevent them altogether.

Regularly maintain and inspect gas appliances and pipes

The proper installation and maintenance of all gas powered household appliances is crucial to prevent leaks. Read the manufacturer’s instructions of your gas appliances to ensure you follow the steps adequately to guarantee the optimal functioning of your equipment. In many cases, regular cleaning and replacement of parts are necessary. Pipes are also subject to ageing and corrosion, as are the fittings that connect them to the appliances. Plumbelec Inspections are at your service to inspect and diagnose the condition of your pipelines and appliances.

Locate the main shut-off valve and know how to use it

Every building with a natural gas piping system will have a natural gas metre with a shutoff valve. All inhabitants must know of the location of this valve and how it works, so as to be able to cut off the supply of gas in the event of a leak. Exercise caution when in contact with gas components, turn the valve off only when it is safe to do so.

Educate yourself and others on the signs of a gas leak and what to do in case of an emergency.

Share this guide with every resident in your house and keep the contact number of your local emergency services at hand in case of an emergency. Following the preventive methods and checking for signs of gas leaks are the first steps, but it is highly recommended that you regularly have a gas safety check conducted by a licenced gas fitter to ensure your home is safe from any gas leaks.

What to do in Case of Gas Leaks?

If you identify any signs of a gas leak in your home, you should call your gas distributor immediately to inform them. They will tell you whether it is advisable to turn off the gas supply or not. Do not operate any electrical switches, phones, appliances or other devices. Smoking, lighters and matches must be avoided. Open doors and windows to ventilate the area, and leave the premises on foot (do not start any vehicles or motors) as soon as possible. If you live in a residential building or semi detached house, alert your neighbours. Under no circumstances should you attempt to repair a natural gas leak yourself.

Contact Plumbelec Inspections today to organise a gas safety check of your home or investment property. 

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