When Are You at Risk of a Natural Gas Leak?

In Australia, there are approximately 5 million households that use natural gas as a source of energy, and over 11 million appliances in those homes that rely on this fossil fuel.  These statistics don’t reflect the ⅔ of Australian homes that have a barbeque that use this fuel source either. 

The prevalence of natural gas within and around the home means there are many ways that you and your family can be exposed to the possible dangers it poses. To ensure everyone’s safety, check out this guide to determine when you have a gas leak and the early warning signs to look out for.

Dangers of Natural Gas

Natural gas is one of the cleanest and safest fossil fuels. Because it produces significantly less emissions, it is becoming the preferred energy source throughout Australia. However, it also poses several risks.

Mainly, this form of fuel is highly combustible, meaning it produces quite a lot of heat even when only small amounts of the gas are burned. Unfortunately, the reason why this fossil fuel is such a popular resource is also why it can be so dangerous. The gas can spread quickly and only needs a spark to ignite, which increases the chances of a fire and possible explosion.

These dangers entail that it is important to be aware of the signs of a leak. Having knowledge about early detection signs can also help you to know what to do in case a leak is found.

What Can Cause a Natural Gas Leak?

One of the positive aspects of using natural gas is that it is fairly safe to use. However, leaks can occur, usually unexpectedly and at the worst times.  The main causes of a leak are the following:

  • Appliances – Heat generating appliances like water heaters, dryers, stoves or fireplaces typically use natural gas or propane. The seals that connect the piping for these appliances can corrode or wear out, causing leaks to occur.
  • Shoddy Piping – Underneath homes, there is a maze of pipes carrying different liquids and gasses. Over time, these pipes can erode and become faulty, and sometimes the pipes simply disconnect and leak. Trees and shrubs can have roots that grow around the pipes, causing leaks to occur as well.  Bad pipes are more common in older homes built to lower standards.
  • Poor Ventilation – This is a twofold problem since carbon dioxide is emitted from heat generating appliances that malfunction. Larger appliances like central heat and AC systems have some form of ventilation to remove dangerous exhaust gasses. If they become clogged or stop working, these gasses can build up, potentially causing serious health issues. Lack of proper ventilation can allow leaking gas to build up inside a home as well, which can easily start a fire. This is why it is imperative to regularly check a home’s ventilation systems.

Signs of a Gas Leak

Natural gas is odourless and doesn’t always make a noise when it leaks. That’s why have a natural gas detector is so important for any home. Besides a detector, there are other ways to detect a possible leak inside or outside the home.  If you notice any of the following signs and a leak is suspected, immediately leave the doors open and leave the home. Then, contact emergency services or your local gas provider to have an inspection done immediately.

Indoor Signs

  • Smell: Because natural gas is odourless, it is delivered with a harmless additive, Mercaptan, that has a slight rotten egg smell. If you notice this odour, then a leak is likely the cause.
  • Sound: Leaks from larger appliances and from pipes in the walls can sometimes cause a hissing sound.

Outdoor Signs

  • Bubbles: Sometimes bubbles may appear in moist areas around the house where there is a leak.
  • Dead Plants: Gas can starve plants of oxygen, causing them to become discoloured.  If normally healthy plants change colours or die suddenly for no reason, then a leak is possible.
  • Flames: Gas leaking into the ground can sometimes burn on or slightly above ground level.
  • Dry Areas: Areas that are typically moist will dry out where gas is escaping.

Natural gas provides an environmentally friendly form of energy, but it can be dangerous. Knowing what the risks are of using this type of fossil fuel and the signs of a leak are vital for your safety and that of your family.



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