Natural gas safety and your home

By The Old House Web

Natural gas is an odorless and colorless fuel used in many home furnaces, air conditioners, water heaters, stoves, and clothes dryers. If your home uses natural gas, you should know the basics of natural gas safety and what to do in an emergency.

6 ways to prevent gas leaks

  1. Make sure that all your gas appliances are in good working order. Follow the manufacturer's maintenance and service schedules.
  2. Do not move, install, or remove gas-operated appliances yourself as you could damage the gas distribution lines. Always have a professional install or replace gas appliances.
  3. Know how to light the pilot light on any gas appliance that uses one. Never deliberately blow out a pilot light as this allows more gas into the room. Allow any gas buildup to disperse before relighting a pilot light.
  4. Never use a gas stove or oven for heat. This not only creates a fire risk, but can cause a deadly carbon monoxide buildup.
  5. Know how to shut off the gas to your appliances and your whole house. The gas is on when the handle is parallel to the gas line. To shut off the gas, turn the valve so the handle is 90 degrees from the gas line. You will need a pipe wrench for the outside master shutoff.
  6. Install a natural gas detector and a carbon monoxide detector. These will sound an alarm if you have a gas leak or a buildup of carbon monoxide caused by incomplete burning of gas in an appliance.

Gas leak symptoms

Smell: Natural gas is odorless in its original form. The characteristic "rotten egg" gas leak smell comes from a chemical added by the gas company to make finding a gas leak easier. (The smell might not always be present.)

Sound: You may hear a hiss as gas escapes. If you have installed a natural gas detector or carbon monoxide detector, these alarms may go off.

Sight: You may see blowing dirt, bubbling water, or dead vegetation near your outside gas lines. Outdoors the wind may carry the odor away before you can smell it indoors.

Illness: If you suffer headache, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain, agitation, confusion, irritability, fatigue, or drowsiness, you may be suffering from carbon monoxide exposure.

5 steps to take if you have a natural gas leak

  1. Open windows and doors to allow gas to escape.
  2. Do not do anything that could create a spark to ignite the gas. This includes turning lights on or off, turning TVs or computers on or off, using a phone or cell phone, opening a garage door or starting a car.
  3. Do not look for or try finding a gas leak. You may want to turn off the main gas valve outside.
  4. Walk away from your home. Make sure all people and pets go with you. Do not start your car if it's in the garage or driveway.
  5. Call the gas company or 911, once you are safely away. Follow their instructions and do not return to the house until they tell you do so.

Natural gas is an economical and efficient resource for your home. By following these natural gas safety tips, you'll know how to prevent gas leaks and what to do if you have a gas leak.

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