A gas leak can turn a perfectly safe furnace into a very dangerous device. An errant spark can ignite escaped gas, resulting in a life-threatening explosion. Gas leaks can also generate excessive amounts of carbon monoxide, leading to CO poisoning and other serious health risks.
Furnace gas leaks should be taken seriously. Knowing how to recognize an ongoing leak can be a literal life-saver for you and your family. The following explains how you can use three of your five senses to detect a potential gas leak from your furnace or any other appliance that relies on natural gas.
Natural gas is odorless in its pure state, making it nearly impossible to detect by smell. Fortunately, natural gas suppliers add an artificial odorant to the gas supply prior to distribution. This odorant, commonly known as "mercaptan," gives the natural gas an odor that's very similar to sulfur and rotten eggs.
It's not unusual to smell a brief whiff of natural gas every now and again, especially when your furnace starts up or shuts down. If the aroma becomes overwhelming, however, you should take steps to make yourself and your family safe. Upon detecting a natural gas leak, you should evacuate your home immediately and call your utility provider or local fire department to shut off the gas supply.
Under certain circumstances, natural gas leaks can also be detected by sight as well as smell. This doesn't mean you can detect the actual gas when it leaks since natural gas is colorless. What you should look for instead are secondary signs of a natural gas leak:
- Blown dust and debris - Natural gas leaks can disturb nearby dust and debris.
- Dense white fog - Escaping natural gas can create a thick white mist at ground level.
- Bubbling puddles - Bubbles rising from liquid puddles near the leak site can also indicate an ongoing gas leak.
Any of the above visual cues can be proof of a furnace gas leak.
Keeping your ears open can also help you detect furnace gas leaks. A small break in the natural gas line can produce a high-pitched hissing sound, while a large break can result in a roaring noise that's hard to ignore. Upon hearing either of these noises, you should vacate your home and contact the proper authorities immediately.
Prevention is always the best policy when it comes to dealing with furnace gas leaks. An annual inspection by a highly trained residential heating system repair service can help significantly reduce your chances of experiencing a gas leak.