A Guide to Understanding Gas Line Leaks

Natural gas is used in homes and businesses as a reliable source of energy. It commonly fuels water heating, general heating, and home appliances (primarily gas stovetops, grills, and drying machines). This resource is affordable, and it burns cleaner than fossil fuels—making it an environmentally-friendly alternative. However, gas line leaks can be dangerous for homes and businesses. The trusted plumbers at Bonney are skilled in gas line repairs, replacements, and detection services. Here is a quick guide to understanding and detecting gas leaks in your home. 

What is a Gas Line Leak?

First, you may be wondering, “What is a gas leak?” The lines that run natural gas through buildings to various appliances can become compromised, releasing natural gas into the air. Homes that use natural gas in any capacity run the risk of encountering a leak. Sometimes, these leaks are subtle and difficult to detect. Other times, these leaks are noticeable by a wide range of signals—most distinctly their smells.

What Causes a Gas Line Leak?

Thankfully, gas leaks are relatively uncommon, though they do happen. Gas line leaks can have a wide variety of potential causes, including: 

  • Old and/or poorly-maintained gas lines or appliances
  • Deteriorating pieces or fittings between gas lines and appliances
  • Disrupted connections to gas-powered appliances
  • Movement of old piping disrupting old, brittle sealant
  • Increased home gas needs that are unsupported by old equipment
  • Appliance issues or malfunctions
  • Gas pipes rusting from ground moisture

Having gas-powered appliances comes with the task of keeping them maintained by local plumbing and electrical experts and staying alert for potential signs of a gas leak.

Signs of a Gas Line Leak 

Natural Gas Sulfur or Rotten Egg Smell

Natural gas is completely odorless; however, companies add the foul-smelling compound methanethiol (or methyl mercaptan) to help indicate leaks. This is a strong and distinct smell that is often described as resembling rotten eggs, smelly socks, rotting cabbage, or simply sulfur-like. If you even faintly smell methanethiol, this often indicates a natural gas leak. 

While the odor is the primary sign of a gas leak, it is important to note that this smell is not always a reliable indicator. This is especially true for underground gas leaks. Certain types of soil can filter out the smell and prevent detection.

Higher Gas Bills

When your home’s gas is leaking, you will find yourself paying more for your gas bills. However, other factors can contribute to higher bills, such as changing seasons and increased usage. When all other considerations are accounted for, a leak could be the source of unusually high gas costs. 

Air Bubbles: Subtle Gas Leak Indicator

If you suspect that you have a natural gas leak, one way to tell is by testing your gas lines for air bubbles. For this test, you simply mix dish soap and water, then apply the mixture to your gas lines. If you have a leak, you will notice small bubbles forming within the soap. 

Hissing or Whistling Pipes: Substantial Gas Leak Indicator

Gas leaks can produce whistling or hissing sounds as the air escapes your gas line. Hissing sounds indicate that natural gas is quickly and steadily leaking into the air. You must act immediately and call PG&E (1-800-743-5000) when encountering this sign of a gas leak. 

Subtle Health Signals of Natural Gas Leak

A natural gas leak can create subtle health signs, such as irritated eyes, nose, and throat, as well as increased eye tearing. It is important to note the possibility of a natural gas leak when multiple individuals within a single household are experiencing these symptoms. 

Drastic Health Signals of Natural Gas Leak

Exposure to natural gas can also cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, lack of coordination, coughing, shortness of breath, and fatigue. While these symptoms often resemble the flu and could have other causes, it is important to remain aware of a gas leak as the potential source of these health issues.

Unusual Animal or Insect Behavior

If you have pets in your home, you might know that their senses are often more sensitive than yours. This could help them detect a gas leak before you notice the smell yourself. Additionally, the health effects of natural gas impact animals in similar ways as humans, but they might experience these issues more immediately because of their smaller composition. 

As for insects, many of them are drawn to the smell of natural gas, so unusual insect behavior near a gas line or meter could indicate a leak. 

White Fog or Haze

Natural gas is colorless, which means it can rarely be visibly detected. However, if you notice a smoke-like fog around your gas lines, it could indicate a leak. This haze can occur when the natural gas reacts with water vapor in the earth’s atmosphere.

Dead Plants or Grass

House plants are hard to take care of, and it is not unusual to find them wilting away. Dying houseplants could be signs of several different plant issues, but this also could be a sign of a gas leak. This applies especially to plants placed close to your gas lines, or if you are sure that your plant is otherwise healthy and properly cared for. Natural gas leaks can cause your plants to suffocate, discolor, and die. 

Outdoor or underground leaks can cause the grass over your gas line to die. You may also notice bubbling in the soil. If you need peace of mind when you see dying plants, contact the experts at Bonney for a gas line inspection. 

What Should I Do If I Have a Gas Leak?

If you suspect a gas leak, first leave the area immediately and call PG&E at 1-800-743-5000. Once they have confirmed that you are not in danger, give the experts at Bonney a call. We offer quick gas leak detection, repair, and line replacement services. We work quickly to protect your home, protect your health, and get you back to normalcy following a gas leak. 

Bonney Sacramento Gas Line Repair Services

Whether you have a confirmed gas leak that needs to be repaired or you simply want the peace of mind in knowing that you do not have a leak, Bonney is here for you. We proudly serve the gas line repair, detection, replacement, and installation needs of homes and businesses throughout the greater Sacramento area. Our service areas include Folsom, Orangevale, Vacaville, Lincoln, Natomas, Elk Grove, Loomis, Placerville, and beyond! Make an appointment with Bonney to get started today!