A gas leak is by far one of the most serious problems that can occur in your home. Gas leaks are extremely dangerous since they can produce a massive explosion if the gas catches fire. Even small leaks can also cause natural gas poisoning and potentially lead to you losing consciousness. Let’s explore how plumbers detect gas leaks and what to do when there’s a gas leak in your home.
How Professional Gas Leak Detection Works
If you suspect your home has a gas leak, you’ll need to hire a plumber to detect the problem. This is because generally only licensed plumbers are certified to work on natural gas lines. When checking for leaks, a plumber will go around all the areas inside or outside your home where the gas lines run and use a handheld gas leak detector. The detector will emit an alarm if it detects the presence of gas in the air.
Once they know that there’s a gas leak, the plumber will then need to pinpoint which gas line or appliance is leaking. The gas valve in a gas stove, oven, fireplace, water heater or furnace can sometimes break and cause a leak. This issue is typically easy to spot as you’ll usually be able to hear a hissing noise caused by the gas escaping.
A pinhole leak in a gas line can be harder to detect, as it usually won’t make a hissing noise. This is because only a small amount of gas leaks out at a time. If the plumber suspects a gas line has a pinhole leak, they will usually use soapy water to pinpoint the exact location. In this situation, they’ll go along the length of the gas line and coat each section of pipe with the soapy water. The gas leaking out of the pipe will cause the soap to bubble so that the plumber knows the exact location of the leak.
Once they know where the leak is, they’ll contact the gas company to have your gas supply shut off so that they can repair the leak. Replacing a leaky valve in a gas-burning appliance is fairly simple, but sometimes, the only option is to replace the leaky appliance. If there’s a leak in a gas line, they’ll cut out and replace the damaged section of pipe. Before repairing the leak, they’ll first need to bleed all of the gas out of all of the lines so that they can work on the valve or pipe safely.
What To Do if You Suspect a Gas Leak
Natural gas is completely odorless and colorless, which means it would normally be impossible to detect that a home has a gas leak. To overcome this issue, gas companies add a special chemical that gives the gas a distinct sulfur or rotten egg smell.
It’s normal for you to faintly smell gas when lighting a pilot light or any time a furnace or other gas-burning appliance turns on. You’ll also obviously smell gas any time you light a gas oven or a burner on a gas cookstove. If the faint smell of gas lingers for a longer time, it’s a fairly obvious sign that there is a small leak in an appliance or gas line. In this case, you’ll want to contact a licensed plumber immediately.
If you notice a very strong smell of gas or you can smell gas throughout your home, it means there is a more severe leak. If so, you need to take immediate action to keep your family, pets and home safe. In this situation, the first thing to do is open at least a few windows and doors. This will help the gas to disperse and reduce the chances of it building up inside and exploding. You should then get all people and pets safely outside and away from your home.
Once outside, you’ll want to move across the street and at least a few houses down just in case the gas does explode. You should call 911 to report the gas leak, and call your gas company’s emergency line so that they can send someone out to shut your gas off. It’s important that you don’t go back inside or anywhere near your home until your gas has been shut off and the leak has been fixed.
Other Signs That Can Indicate Your Home Has a Gas Leak
The rotten egg odor is the most obvious sign of a gas leak, but sometimes, a more minor leak or a leak outside your home will be harder to detect. Some people also have issues where they may not be able to smell a gas leak, so it’s important to also watch out for these other signs.
Hissing Sounds When a Gas Appliance Isn’t Running
You’ll generally always hear a hissing sound of gas flowing any time a gas-burning appliance is running. If you can hear gas flowing when the appliance is shut off, it’s a sure sign that it is leaking. In this situation, you’ll want to close the valve on the gas line that runs to the appliance so that no more gas flows and leaks out. If the sound stops after closing the valve, it indicates that the leak has stopped and you’re probably safe to stay inside while waiting for the plumber to arrive.
Orange or Yellow Flames on Your Gas Stove or Oven
When you turn on a gas oven or a burner on a gas stove, the flames should always be bright blue. If the flames are orange or red, it usually indicates that the stove or oven has a gas leak. Red or orange flames occur when there is lots of gas in the air causing the flames to not receive enough oxygen. If you ever see red or orange flames on your oven or stove, you should immediately shut it off and get outside just to be safe.
Air Bubbles in Water or Mud Puddles
The main gas line to your home is usually buried underground, which can make it much harder to detect if it’s leaking. One fairly obvious sign that indicates the underground line is leaking is if you see air bubbling up through a water or mud puddle in your yard. If you see this issue, you’ll need to contact your gas company so that they can shut off your gas and dig up and replace the line.
Unhealthy or Dying Plants
A leak in the underground gas line will also often cause the plants, grass and other vegetation in the nearby area to start yellowing or dying. The reason is that natural gas inhibits the ability of a plant’s roots to absorb oxygen, which can lead to the plant beginning to wilt. An underground gas leak typically won’t completely kill a healthy tree unless the leak remains undetected for a much longer time. However, the gas can cause new leaves on the tree to grow stunted or misshapen, so this is also something to look out for.
Plumbtree Plumbing & Rooter is ready to help if you need any gas services in the San Jose area. We specialize in gas leak detection, and we’re available 24/7 should you ever suspect a gas leak in your home. Our licensed plumbers also specialize in all plumbing, drain and sewer repair, maintenance and installation services, so give us a call for all of your plumbing, gas and water needs.