You've known for a while now that gas leaks are dangerous. You understand that carbon monoxide poisoning can kill quickly and that gas is highly combustible.
But even the best devices have a slight risk of failing. And emergencies can happen when you least expect them. If a gas leak were to occur in or near your home, would you know how to spot it?
The following warning signs can help you spot trouble quickly.
1. You Smell Rotten Eggs or Sulphur
Propane, in its natural state, has no odour or colour, making it almost impossible to detect without help. Manufacturers recognise the danger and add ethyl mercaptan to propane so homeowners and professionals can pinpoint a leak quickly. Ethyl mercaptan has a strongly disagreeable smell, much like rotten eggs, sulphur or cooked cabbage depending on its preparation.
Of course, not everyone can smell ethyl mercaptan. Allergies, colds, cooking odours and alcohol may interfere with the odour. And on rare occasions, propane may lose its distinctive scent as air, water or rust mix with the gas in the tank.
If you notice a persistent rotten egg odour, you need to react as if your home had a serious gas leak. Even if the smell is faint, you shouldn't wait to call in a professional to diagnose the leak.
2. Gas Appliances Have a Discoloured Flame
Natural gas is an efficient, reliable, fuel source, and understandably, you may count on it to power several appliances in your home. Stoves and ovens, water heaters and fireplaces may all use gas to function.
When you turn on these appliances, don't forget to check the colour of the flame. The pilot light should always have a vibrant blue colour, as this hue indicates the correct gas-to-air ratio. However, if the flame takes on a yellow or orange hue, your appliance may be leaking more gas than it can combust.
While some appliances allow you to adjust the air levels to correct the ratio, you should hire a professional if you can't correct the problem on your own. If the device is faulty, poorly maintained or out of alignment, avoid using the appliance until it has undergone repairs.
3. You Feel Sick, Nauseous or Dizzy
Though your nose can't always tell you when something is wrong, the rest of your body can certainly give you a few signals. As you inhale the gas, the carbon monoxide builds up in your system, essentially replacing the oxygen in your blood.
Without enough oxygen, cells in your body start to die, and you may experience the following symptoms:
If you feel short of breath, leave the building and breathe deeply. If you feel worse when you return indoors, go outside again and seek medical help.
What Else Should You Do?
Gas leaks present a lot of health risks to you, your family members and anyone else in your neighbourhood. Whether your pilot light looks discoloured or you notice a persistent smell near an outdoor propane tank, you shouldn't wait to contact emergency professionals for help.
While you wait, remember to exercise extra caution in the area. Do not turn any electrical devices on or off, as the spark may ignite the gas. If possible, put out any smoking materials or open flames. Let others in your area know about the problem, and do not re-enter a building to retrieve personal items.
When you follow these simple steps and tips, you can minimise your risks and keep everyone safe.