Natural gas is a popular choice for home and water heating. It’s considered the safest and cleanest fossil fuel; however, that doesn’t mean it’s entirely danger-free. A natural gas leak in your home could start a fire, and inhaling the gas can cause natural gas poisoning. If your home uses natural gas as its energy source, it’s important to familiarize yourself with some safety tips to keep yourself and your family safe.
One of the most noticeable signs you’re having a natural gas problem is a rotten egg smell. Natural gas is odorless, tasteless, and colorless, so utility companies add a harmless chemical to give it a distinctive odor and make it easier to detect a leak. This chemical, called Mercaptan, is likened to the smell of rotten eggs or sulfur. While the scent isn’t pleasant, it does a great job alerting people that flammable gas is present so they can leave the area.
The bottom line: if you smell rotten eggs, call your utility company immediately.
Other Signs of a Natural Gas Leak
A rotten egg smell isn’t the only telling sign of a natural gas leak, so don’t just rely on the scent. You could have a diminished sense of smell, other odors might mask the rotten egg scent, or you could even be desensitized to the smell. Stay alert for these other signs of a natural gas leak:
- Hissing, roaring, or whistling noises coming from a natural gas appliance
- Damaged fuel lines leading to a natural gas appliance
- Higher-than-normal gas usage
- Dead or dying plants above the natural gas line leading to your house
- Unusual water bubbling or soil movement on your property
- An exposed natural gas line following an earthquake, flood, or other disasters
Also, breathing in low levels of natural gas can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, and irregular breathing. If you’re exposed to high levels of natural gas, you might experience serious symptoms such as fatigue, memory problems, severe headaches, loss of concentration, nausea, and suffocation. If you think you’re experiencing symptoms of natural gas inhalation, seek medical help immediately.
There’s a Natural Gas Leak. What Do I Do?
It’s critical to take safety precautions if you smell rotten eggs or suspect a natural gas leak for any other reason. Natural gas is non-toxic, but it can cause death by suffocation if the gas displaces the air in a confined space. This is why it’s so important to air out your home and get a safe distance away if you suspect a leak.
If you think you’re experiencing a natural gas leak, follow these steps:
- Don’t do anything that can cause a spark, such as flipping a light switch, unplugging an electrical device, or using a landline or cell phone.
- Put out anything burning and don’t light a match, stove, or lighter if you suspect a leak. Snuff out cigarettes and blow out candles.
- Let fresh air inside by opening windows and doors
- Turn off your gas supply at the meter and keep it off until your energy company tells you it’s safe.
- Stand a safe distance away from your home; call 911 and your gas provider.
For more natural gas safety tips, contact UGI EnergyLink today.