Detecting a Gas Leak at Home
Natural gas is an efficient and convenient energy source that is piped into millions of homes worldwide. It is used mainly for heating and cooking. When many appliances are connected to a gas supply it can increase the chances of a gas leak.
According to UK statistics, as many as 12 people have died in a gas explosion in the last 5 years, with well over a hundred being injured. There are thousands of miles of pipelines under the ground carrying gas to domestic properties in the UK. Many pipelines were laid around the time of WII and many are in need of urgent replacement due to concerns over corrosion.
Gas is a volatile product and should only be handled by highly trained and qualified gas engineers. It might be tempting for you to hire a keen DIY-er who is ‘dirt cheap’ but does not possess the legal industry qualifications to repair or maintain your gas appliances.
Poor workmanship has caused gas leaks, explosions and injury. Thankfully these renegade ‘engineers’ have been dealt severely with by the courts, some receiving custodial or suspended sentences and severe fines!
If you have gas appliances in your home all are subject to possible leaks at some point. A common cause of a gas leak is usually in a cupboard where the gas meter is installed, which is also used for storage. Things get thrown in the cupboard striking gas connections/fittings causing them to loosen or crack.
What’s the most obvious way to detect a gas leak?
By the smell. It’s a pungent smell similar to ‘rotten eggs. It won’t go unnoticed!
If the smell is particularly strong it can suggest more than a tiny leak. If you can also hear a hissing or whistling sound it’s likely that the leak is more serious.
Why does it smell awful? The smell is due to the additive, Metacaptan (known also as Methanethiol) and smells awful, this smell is easy to detect and is a warning that that gas is leaking somewhere! It’s unlikely that a gas leak will go undetected due to the pungent smell.
We’ve all smelt it at some point or another. It’s a harmless but distinctive pungent-smelling gas, acting like an alarm to warn you that gas is escaping. Your ears and nose are both great gas leak detectors!
5 Ways to Detect a Gas Leak - Complete Guide
1. Rotten egg or a sulphur smell.
We all know eggs are one of our staple meals at breakfast time and we can easily recognise if the egg is bad, by the smell.
If you detect the smell of rotten eggs in your home (assuming eggs aren’t on the menu) You will need to investigate immediately! Once you have successfully located the source of the leak, turn off the gas from the meter and ventilate the property by opening windows and doors.
Do not use a naked flame or smoke and turn on any electrical appliances and avoid switching on lights! To be on the safe side, vacate the property and call National Grid or Cadent, both companies will assist in isolating the leak.
Please note if the main supply is in the basement of your home, or in a confined space where the smell of gas is coming from, do not go there. Why? If the gas has displaced the oxygen it can cause drowsiness, impair one’s judgement and cause suffocation. Call the above emergency services immediately.
2. Listen for a whistling or hissing sound.
You receive natural gas into your home via pressurised pipelines. If a pipe has disconnected or cracked you will hear a loud hissing sound as the gas escapes under pressure. The louder the sound, the more significant the leak.
If you think you have detected the leak, use ‘soapy water to double check; bubbles foaming or popping mean you have located it.
3. Lacklustre or withered plants
Plants, like humans, need clean air to survive. Plants can also be affected by natural gases in the atmosphere. If your houseplants are showing signs of wilting for no valid reason (assuming they are regularly watered) it could be due to ‘tainted’ air on the property. It could be due to natural gas but you will need to engage a gas-safe engineer to investigate.
4. A damaged Pipe.
The gas lines connected to your home do corrode after time as like anything they have a limited lifespan. Generally, if there is a slight smell of gas it could mean the pipework has corroded. It is advisable to check to see if the pipes are aged or corroded.
5. Appliances, keep a watchful eye on them.
There are various gas appliances in the home, such as a water heater, oven and gas fires that give a cosy feel to a property. However, a faulty or poorly installed appliance can often cause a gas leak.
Sometimes a smell of gas is noticed when the hob and other gas appliances are turned off! It could be something simple like a faulty hose connection. In all instances please call a gas safe registered engineer for immediate inspection.
What to do after the gas leak detection?
If you detect a gas leak follow the steps below.
- Stay calm and act quickly - you will probably need to vacate your property.
- Leave the windows and doors open before evacuating the building if convenient to do so.
- Do not turn on electrical switches or other ignition sources, including telephones.
- Shut off the main gas supply into the property, if it's safe to do so.
- Once outside the property and safe, call your gas-safe engineer immediately.
- In the event of a fire, call the fire brigade (999).
- Use a mobile phone.
- Try to repair the leak.
- Turn lights on.
- Turn on/off home appliances.
- Use lighters, candles, matches, or other ignition sources.
- Keep doors and windows closed.
- Let the situation go unreported.
Side Effects of a Gas Leak
If you are exposed to a gas leak, you may experience physical symptoms due to the reduced amount of oxygen in the air. These may include
- Difficulty breathing.
- Fatigue or sleepiness.
- Fever-like symptoms.
- Sore eyes and throat.
- Mood swings, including depression (long term).
- Chest pain.
- Loss of appetite.
Another hazard with gas appliances is that of CO (carbon monoxide) when an appliance processes enough oxygen due to a combustion fault. A CO alarm will warn you and your family members if any CO leaks on a property. Need one fitted, then call serviceteam to do the installation.
Need an expert to solve a Gas Leak?
Detection leads to prevention!
In an emergency, your family and loved ones come first. If you follow safety precautions and maintain equipment regularly, you are safety conscious and in a safe place. The beauty of being familiar with the signs of gas leaks and how to act accordingly can and will avoid serious accidents and even save lives!
A gas leak can be fatal, so don’t attempt to fix a leak yourself, you need a qualified gas registered engineer. Serviceteam can help. Our gas safe registered engineers are on hand to tackle any gas leaks at your property and we’re only a phone call away.
BOOK a Serviceteam gas-safe engineer for a thorough inspection, and stay gas safe!