Natural Gas Explained for New Homeowners
Natural gas powers many of the appliances in your home. It’s a reliable, clean-burning energy source that can also be dangerous or even deadly. When you have a gas leak, what do you do? And who is responsible? For new homeowners, these questions may be new territory.
We want to help you be ready if you do detect a gas leak. Dallas homeowners can learn how gas travels through your home, where it’s likely to leak and what you should do about it. For all your Dallas, TX gas leak detection and repair needs, trust the experts at Benjamin Franklin.
How does natural gas travel to your home?
Natural gas is a byproduct of plant and animal matter that’s been under pressure deep in the earth for thousands of years. Hence the name “fossil fuel.” Gas companies mine this gas and filter it into a purer form. The clean gas is then pumped through large underground pipes across the country. Smaller underground service lines bring the gas from your local utility company to your home.
Gas enters your home at your gas meter. A pressure regulator (that circular thing on your gas meter) makes sure the gas enters your home at a safe pressure. This pressure is usually around .25 psi – just slightly higher than normal air pressure. The gas meter also measures how much gas you use so you can be billed accordingly.
Your gas meter has a shut off valve to stop all gas from flowing into your home. Newer homes will have a standard ball valve shut off. If you have an older home, you likely have a streetside shut off. It’s a rectangular nub on the side of the pipes connected to your meter.
Once inside your home, the gas travels through pipes within your walls and floors. Like water, it waits until drawn for heating or by appliances. When an appliance turns on, the gas flows to a burner where it ignites into a blue flame and becomes heat energy.
What Uses Natural Gas in My Home?
Natural gas accounts for about 23% of U.S. residential energy needs. In your home, appliances that use natural gas might include:
- Furnace or boiler
- Water heater
- Gas fireplace
Older appliances have a pilot light – a small flame that stays lit and ignites the burner as needed. Newer appliances have electric pilots that no longer require a constant flame.
Where Do Gas Leaks Occur?
In your home:
Gas leaks can occur around any of the above appliances as well as in the connecting plumbing that supplies the gas. The most common places for a leak are the connection points where gaskets have worn out or hardware has come loose. In pipes, check joints and couplings.
If you have older gas lines in your home, rust and corrosion can lead to a leak. These leaks may be small at first but can grow into a serious problem over time. Continue to periodically check for signs of leaks in your system.
In your yard
Gas leaks can also occur underground if the lines that bring natural gas to your home degrade. Many utility lines have been underground for years. Until these are upgraded, they are at risk of corrosion and eventual failure.
How to Detect a Natural Gas Leak
The surest sign of a natural gas leak is the sulfuric, rotten egg smell. Natural gas is mostly odorless methane, but the gas company adds an odorous chemical called mercaptan to it. This noxious scent is designed to alert you to the presence of gas to prevent health complications or, worse, your home exploding.
Other signs of a gas leak include hissing sounds, physical symptoms like dizziness and nausea and higher than normal gas bills. To test for a natural gas leak, spray a solution of soapy water on the suspected area and watch for bubbling. If the soap bubbles up, you have gas leaking beneath.
Outside, a patch of brown grass or dying plants could indicate an underground gas line is leaking in your yard. Call your gas company to have your exterior gas lines checked.
What To Do If You Find a Gas Leak
Gas leaks can be a significant risk. Your best course of action is to follow these steps:
- Evacuate all people and pets from your home.
- Don’t flip any switches or dial your phone inside.
- Open windows and doors around the leak.
- Call your utility company or gas plumber from outside.
- If an emergency, call 911.
- Wait for the experts to resolve the issue before returning inside.
Prolonged exposure to natural gas can cause any number of symptoms and illnesses. Any type of spark could ignite a gas leak and cause fire or explosion.
Natural Gas FAQ for New Homeowners
Will a carbon monoxide detector alert me to a natural gas leak?
No. Carbon monoxide is a different type of gas. It is a byproduct of something burning. It can come from a faulty furnace, dryer or other appliance. Carbon monoxide detectors are crucial in every home.
Who is responsible for gas leaks outside your house?
In most cases, your local utility company should be responsible for maintaining the gas lines outside your home. Check with your provider.
How long to air out house after gas leak?
The time varies based on size of leak and available ventilation. Between 15 minutes and an hour would be typical. Natural gas disperses fairly quickly. Make sure the scent is gone before you close doors and windows.
Who to Call for Gas Leak Repair
Gas leaks can be scary and intimidating for new homeowners. For Plano gas line repair, Carrolton gas leak detection and all Dallas gas leak issues, call or contact Benjamin Franklin. A punctual plumber is nearby and ready to help!