Natural gas is a great energy option for cooking and other energy needs for residential and commercial properties. It’s one of the most affordable, efficient, cleanest and safest energy sources available. Natural gas is versatile and it’s also the preferred energy source for heating American homes and businesses.Yet, natural gas presents a safety hazard. Learn how to detect a leak and protect your loved ones.
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Why Natural Gas Leaks Are Dangerous
While the process of supplying natural gas has a lot of protective measures in place, it is highly flammable and therefore potentially dangerous. Because carbon monoxide is a byproduct of the gas, a leak is also life-threatening.
What to Do If You Suspect a Gas Leak
When it comes to natural gas safety, keep the three Rs in mind: Recognize, React and Report.
Did you know that natural gas in its natural form has no color, odor or taste. It would be virtually impossible to detect a leak. But there are still several properties that help identify it.
Thankfully, a chemical called mercaptan has been added to natural gas in order to make it possible to detect. This chemical additive is responsible for the familiar rotten egg odor. It’s always added to natural gas to allow for easy and safe detection of leaks. That means that your nose is the only tool needed to know if you might be in danger.
Other signs that there may be a gas leak include blowing and hissing sounds. You might also spot dirt or dust blowing from a hole in the ground. Because natural gas is lighter than air, like helium, it tends to rise. If you think have a gas leak, try smelling higher up in the room, near the ceiling where it should be stronger. If you smell it inside a closed space, such as a cabinet, you might smell the gas in higher concentration near the top.
If you recognize a rotten egg smell, even if it’s just a faint odor, you must react.
Don’t ever ignore a possible gas leak. They are dangerous and potentially deadly. Leave the area immediately. If you are at home, be sure that everyone leaves the house with you. If you are at work, notify someone in charge and insist that the area be evacuated until the problem is investigated or the source of the leak is located.
It is critical that nobody uses mechanical or electric devices that could ignite the gas near a possible leak. You must move a safe distance away leak before activating any of these devices, including:
- Light switches,
- Garage doors,
- Cars, and
- Mobile phones.
Because many activities could possibly ignite the gas, avoid trying to make a phone call. Do not attempt to open any windows and doors to try an ventilate the house or building. Do not try to reignite pilot lights. Go to a safe location outside until someone from the fire department or gas service responds to your call and controls the issue.
Once you have reached a safe location, report the suspected gas leak. This is for your safety and to help protect everyone else in the area. Call 9-1-1 as soon as possible to notify the authorities of the potential danger. Dispatchers will ensure that the zone is secured and that the issue is investigated thoroughly.
If you know the natural gas service provider for that building, you should also report the possible leak to that company.
Tips for Safe Use of Natural Gas at Home
- When purchasing new home appliances, look for those that meet safety standards.
- Keep your furnace operating well by regularly replacing the filters and always ensure that the area around the HVAC system is clean. Have a qualified technician check your system annually.
- Never ventilate your natural gas appliance into the same chimney or flue used for burning wood coal.
- Rely on trained professionals for installing and servicing all gas appliances and HVAC components in your home. Have any necessary repairs done professionally.
- Ensure that gas appliances that require ventilation to make sure they vent properly and have an adequate supply of fresh air.
- Inspect your chimney or flue for obstructions.
Tips for Safe Digging
- Always call 8-1-1 and a private utility locator at least a few business days before you plan to do any digging or excavating on your property. Technicians will be dispatched to locate and mark any underground utility lines, include natural gas pipelines, so that you can dig safely.
- Look for yellow. Yellow is the designated color for paint, stakes and flags used to mark natural gas lines and other hazardous liquids.
- Know that gas line markings are not always exhaustive or accurate. Be sure to call 8-1-1 and a private utility locator.
- If you strike a pipeline or discover that one has been damaged or disturbed call 9-1-1 immediately.
Natural Gas at Work
When used properly, it’s one of the safest and most dependable forms of energy. Natural gas is combustible when combined with the proper ration of oxygen and an ignition source. When it’s burned normally, it emits a harmless mixture of carbon dioxide and water vapor. Under normal conditions, the gas is safe and non-toxic.
Natural gas has a clean blue flame when burning normally. When the air mixture is less than ideal, it has a weaker flame that is yellow/orange in color. With insufficient oxygen, carbon dioxide changes to carbon monoxide – a poisonous gas. As long as your appliances are working properly, carbon monoxide should not be a concern. Most natural gas appliances are equipped with vents or are connected to a chimney to remove combustion byproducts. This eliminates the buildup of moisture and carbon monoxide. It’s very important that vents are the correct sized and in good working condition.
Before Breaking Ground, Call SOFTDIG
We care about your safety. Before excavating on any commercial or residential property, call the professionals. Talk to a private underground utility locator at (610) 738-8762 or use our online quote request form.