Natural gas isn't dangerous when it's sealed up tight inside pipes and used in the right way.
The natural gas pipes underground and inside your house are designed to keep the gas safely inside. There are also rules for digging, building houses and using appliances to make sure accidents don't happen.
Natural Gas Leaks:
The danger happens when natural gas leaks out because it is flammable, which means that if there's a flame or even a spark in the area of a leak, it could cause a fire or explosion.
A gas leak can happen if a gas pipe is damaged, like if someone is digging a hole and accidentally breaks an underground gas line. Natural gas can also leak out if an appliance like a stove isn't hooked up right.
When natural gas first comes out of the ground, you can't see it or smell it. That's why gas companies add a chemical, called mercaptan, which smells similar to rotten eggs to the gas to make even the smallest leaks easy to notice.
How to detect a natural gas leak?
There are several ways to detect a natural gas leak:
Smell: The best indicator of a natural gas leak is an odor similar to rotten eggs.
Sight: Look for dirt blowing into the air, persistent bubbling in standing water or discolored or dead vegetation around a natural gas pipeline area.
Sound: Listen for an unusual hissing or roaring sound.
If you suspect a gas leak, act quickly!
Airborne natural gas can ignite easily and quickly. If you smell the “rotten egg” odor of natural gas:
- Make sure gas appliances are turned all the way OFF.
- Immediately have everyone leave the house.
- Call 911 from a neighbor's house or other location well away from the gas leak and explain the situation to authorities.
- Keep everyone away from the building until given the “all clear” from a gas company employee or other authority.
- Do not strike matches or create a flame or spark that could ignite the gas.
- Do not start an engine of any kind.
- Do not use a telephone or cell phone in the area.
- Do not flip on or off light switches, garage door openers or other electronics.
- Do not try to find the source of the natural gas leak yourself.
Other natural gas safety tips:
- Gas appliances should have proper air circulation at all times.
- A gas flame should burn bright blue. A yellow or orange flame could indicate improper combustion or venting.
- Keep flammable or combustible items away from gas appliances and equipment.
- Use gas equipment only for what it was designed to do. For example, it is not safe to use a stove or range for heating a cold home.
- Buy only equipment that meets safety standards such as the American Gas Association’s Blue Star seal of approval.
- Always keep one or more fire extinguishers in your home.
Carbon monoxide, CO, is a dangerous gas that you can't see, smell or taste. CO can quickly build up to unsafe levels in enclosed or semi-closed areas. Around 50% of carbon monoxide poisoning happens in the home, 40% in the car, and 10% in work settings.
Common Sources of Carbon Monoxide:
- Gas stoves
- Gas furnaces
- Burning charcoal and wood
- Cars, trucks, boats, and other vehicles
- Small gasoline-powered equipment like generators, weed trimmers, and chain saws
- Any heating system or appliance that burns gas, oil, wood, gasoline, propane or kerosene.
Carbon Monoxide Can Make You Very Sick:
When humans breathe in carbon monoxide, it gets into our blood and stops the oxygen from getting to our brain. It can cause death in minutes if it is at high levels. The following people are at a higher risk of developing carbon monoxide poisoning:
- Unborn babies
- Pregnant women
- People with chronic heart disease, anemia, or respiratory problems
- People who already have elevated carbon monoxide blood levels, such as smokers
If you're sick with carbon monoxide poisoning, it might feel like the flu:
- Upset stomach or throwing up
- Feeling so tired you can't sit up
- Fuzzy vision
- Getting really dizzy when you stand up
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
You can often tell the difference between the flu and CO poisoning because you won't have a fever, everyone in your family may feel sick, or the symptoms might disappear when you leave the house.
Breathing high levels of carbon monoxide can cause loss of consciousness and death. People who are sleeping can die from carbon monoxide poisoning before ever knowing they are being exposed to the gas.
Installation of Carbon Monoxide Detector:
These detectors are similar to smoke alarms and can warn you when carbon monoxide levels become unsafe. If the alarm goes off, evacuate the building and call 911. Follow the carbon monoxide detector instructions for routine maintenance, including regular replacement of batteries. If the carbon monoxide detector is wired to the electrical supply, make sure it has back-up batteries for when the electricity is off.
How do I prevent carbon monoxide poisoning during a power outage?
- Never use a charcoal or gas grill in an enclosed space, such as inside your home, garage or in a tent or camper.
- Do not burn charcoal in your fireplace. A charcoal fire will not create a chimney draft strong enough to push the carbon monoxide to the outside.
- Never use a generator inside your home, garage, carport, basement, crawlspace or near an outside window, door or vent. Generators should be at least 15 feet away from buildings. Even at 15 feet away, air flow patterns could still blow carbon monoxide into your home through attic vents, windows or doors, so it's very important to have a working carbon monoxide detector inside the home.
- Never use a gas range or gas oven to heat your home.
- Never sleep in a room while using an unvented gas or kerosene heater.
How can I prevent carbon monoxide poisoning from my home appliances?
- Have propane, kerosene and gas appliances and fireplaces, as well as wood stoves, checked every year by a trained professional.
- Make sure chimneys and flues are routinely checked and cleaned. Never burn anything in a stove or fireplace that is not vented.
- Do not use unvented gasoline, propane, kerosene or other fuel heaters.
- If you suspect you have been exposed to carbon monoxide, leave your home immediately, call 911.
- Don't go back into the home until the problem has been resolved.
If you have propane, kerosene and gas appliances and fireplaces, as well as wood stoves please give us a call today at 731-668-7492 to set up an appointment with our technicians to have all your appliances and fireplaces check! Also, we can check and make sure that your carbon monoxide detector(s) are working properly. If you don’t have carbon monoxide detectors we can install them as well. Again call us today at 731-668-7492 or schedule an appointment on our app under the plumbing services.