Got Gas? What To Do If You Smell Gas Inside Your Home

If you smell gas in your home…then you just might have a problem. You likely have a gas leak. I’m not referring to gasoline here but I’ll suggest (with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek) that if you smell gasoline inside the living space of your home, then you might want to consider parking your car outside or in the garage. Seriously, though, the smell of gas inside your home is no laughing matter.

Gas is used as a fuel to operate many different systems in modern homes. Gas is most often used by systems that heat the home such as furnaces and boilers. Gas-fired waters heaters are very common. It can be used as a fuel for cooking such as with ranges or cook-tops, for fireplaces to provide heat or for decoration, and for other uses e.g. clothes dryers. It is, after all, an efficient fuel and is readily available in some form in most geographical locations. Two types of gas are in common residential use…natural gas and Liquefied Propane (LP) gas. Each has its own properties and each is unique in various ways. Let’s examine the two different types of gas.

Natural gas is a carbon-based fossil fuel that is typically piped directly into a home by a public utility operator. It is lighter than air which means that, if it leaks, it will readily dissipate into the atmosphere.

LP gas is also a carbon-based fossil fuel. It has more available energy per unit measure than does natural gas and it is readily able to turn to a liquid state. LP gas is heavier is approximately 1.5 times heavier than air…which means that, if it should leak, it sinks to the floor or grade level and will collect in low areas (more on that later).

It is worthy of note that, in their natural states (conditions), both natural gas and LP gas are virtually odorless. To enable people being able to readily detect gas leakage (using their nose), processors of both products add a chemical called Methyl Mercaptan to the gas mixture. Methyl Mercaptan has been described as smelling like something akin to rotten cabbage or rotten eggs. Listen up…this is important! If you smell rotten cabbage, and you’re pretty sure you don’t have any rotten cabbage lying around, then that odor should cause an instantaneous alarm to go off inside your head. If you suspect that there’s a gas leak inside your home, there are some things you need to do…and quickly. There are also a few things not to do.
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Things NOT To Do:

• Panic…you’re well-being depends on you keeping a clear head and systematically doing what you need to do in a timely manner. If you freak out as soon as you smell gas, you won’t be thinking clearly

• Light a match or cigarette lighter…this may seem like a no-brainer but, well, it has happened and the results weren’t pretty

• Do not operate any electric devices to include light switches, appliances, or your even your hard-wired telephone…any potential for any electrical spark should be completely avoided

• Don’t connect or disconnect any electric cords from power outlets…this could also create a spark

Things To Do:

• If the odor is strong, round up all living creatures that you love…spouse, kids, Grandma and Grandpa, Fido, cats, birds, etc. (the fish will probably be alright assuming no explosion…in which case the fish probably won’t be the primary concern anyway)…and leave the house immediately

• If the odor isn’t very strong, then you could consider opening a window or two, on your way out the door, to allow some fresh air to dilute the concentration of gas in the air

• If you are at all technically inclined and know where and how to do so…and you should know…then turn off the gas supply at the main valve. The main gas valve is usually located at the gas meter in the case of natural gas or at the tank in the case of LP gas

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