For obvious reasons, a suspected gas leak in your home can seem scary. By all means, you should always be aware of your surroundings, especially if you suspect danger. For many homeowners, however, small gas leaks in the home are often not life-threatening and can be easily fixed. Here’s what you should know about gas leaks.
How to identify a gas leak
You’ll usually become aware of a gas leak because you’ll smell a pungent odor of sulfur or rotten eggs. Natural gas, by itself, is odorless, so this smell comes from an additive to help people detect when a leak is present.
If you smell sulfur or suspect a gas leak, the first thing you should do is check that all of your gas appliances, like your fireplace or stove, are turned off.
When do you call a plumber vs the gas company?
If all of your gas-burning appliances are turned off and you still smell gas, your first phone call should be to a plumbing company. Surprised? While you may initially think a call to the gas company makes the most sense, what typically happens is this:
When you report a suspected leak, the gas company will come out to make sure that their part of the gas line (the components outside) are not leaking. Assuming they don’t detect a problem on their end of the line, they’ll shut off the gas to your home as a precaution. Then they’ll advise you to hire a plumber to find and repair the leak since, through process of elimination, it must be coming from the part of the line you (the homeowner) is responsible for.
Legally and for safety, the gas company is required to turn off the gas to your home when a leak is reported. But this means you’re stuck without any gas to your home until a plumber can arrive! A plumber is likely your best first call when you detect a gas leak since they’ll help you diagnose the problem, whereas the gas company is likely to simply shut your gas off. A plumber will be able to inspect any situation and determine if it should be escalated to the gas company.
Still not sure who to call? Here’s another test to try
Another way to help determine whether to call a plumber or the gas company is to test whether or not your gas appliances still function. If the gas leak is serious, then none of your gas appliances will work because there wouldn’t be enough gas pressure for them to work. However, if your gas appliances still work, it’s likely a small, very fixable leak, and a plumber will be your best call.
The Plumbing Company’s Process
Sometimes a plumber can locate a leak through some simple checks. If they’re unable to locate the leak quickly or want to confirm that all leaks have been addressed, they’ll likely recommend performing a gas test.
In this kind of test, they’ll turn off the gas to your home and then pressurize the gas lines. Then it’s a matter of monitoring how the pressure holds after many hours. Typically this is a process that is done overnight. The next day, when the plumber returns, they’ll check to see if any pressure in the lines has been lost.
If the gas line hasn’t lost pressure, that’s an indicator that the line is fine and gas can be turned back on. If the line does lose pressure, that’s an indicator that there are still leaks present in the line that still have to be located and fixed. Sometimes this means cutting into walls to find the leaking pipes and bypassing gas line branches.
Permits & City Involvement
Plumbers are required to get a permit from the city to perform any work to your gas line. This is the city’s way of ensuring the gas leak has been properly tended to and fixed. The city won’t allow the gas to be turned back on until there is proof of a fix. Know that some leaks can be remedied quickly while other times it may take a few days before it’s fixed and your gas can be turned back on.
Don’t Panic and Let an Expert Put You In Control
In general, the danger for home gas leaks in the news and on TV is slightly exaggerated and often danger isn’t imminent. If you have time to check out that you have a gas leak, that means it has probably been leaking for a while. Give a plumber a call to help you get to the bottom of the things. It means you’ll be aware of the whole process and can hopefully avoid going without gas to your home for no good reason.
If you have questions about gas leaks in your home, our expert plumbers can help. Contact North East Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing with your questions or to schedule an appointment today.