What is Natural gas?
“Natural gas is a naturally occurring hydrocarbon gas mixture consisting primarily of methane, but commonly including varying amounts of other higher alkanes, and sometimes a small percentage of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, hydrogen sulfide, or helium. It is formed when layers of decomposing plant and animal matter are exposed to intense heat and pressure under the surface of the Earth over millions of years. The energy that the plants originally obtained from the sun is stored in the form of chemical bonds in the gas.
Natural gas is a naturally occurring hydrocarbon used as a source of energy for heating, cooking, and electricity generation. It is also used as a fuel for vehicles and as a chemical feedstock in the manufacture of plastics and other commercially important organic chemicals. Natural gas is called a non-renewable resource.
Natural gas is found in deep underground rock formations or associated with other hydrocarbon reservoirs in coal beds and as methane clathrates.”
- (Wikipedia, 2019, Natural Gas)
What is Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)?
“Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is natural gas (predominantly methane, CH4, with some mixture of ethane C2H6) that has been cooled down to liquid form for ease and safety of non-pressurized storage or transport. It takes up about 1/600th the volume of natural gas in the gaseous state (at standard conditions for temperature and pressure). It is odorless, colorless, non-toxic and non-corrosive. Hazards include flammability after vaporization into a gaseous state, freezing and asphyxia. The liquefaction process involves removal of certain components, such as dust, acid gases, helium, water, and heavy hydrocarbons, which could cause difficulty downstream. The natural gas is then condensed into a liquid at close to atmospheric pressure by cooling it to approximately −162 °C (−260 °F); maximum transport pressure is set at around 25 kPa (4 psi). Natural gas is mainly converted to LNG for transport over the seas where laying pipelines is not feasible technically and economically.”
- (Wikipedia, 2019, Liquefied Natural Gas)
In the Event of a Natural Gas Leak in Your Home
- DO the following:
- Stay Calm.
- Exit your home right away.
- Advise others to exit immediately as well.
- DO NOT do anything that may cause a spark (because the gas may explode) such as:
- Light a match or smoke.
- Turn appliances or lights on or off.
- Use a flashlight.
- Start a car.
- Use a telephone.
- Use any electrical equipment or do anything else that can cause combustion
If you smell gas, DO NOT:
- Remain in the building
- Try to find the source of the leak
- Call 911! (But make sure that you do walk or run a long distance away from the gas leak before doing so). Please be proactive in reporting the gas leak and make the call yourself. Others may not report the leak so please take the initiative and take the action and call 911.
- Cooperate with any emergency responders or gas company contractors upon their arrival.
After a Gas Leak
- Revise your water heater and all of the heating vents. Potential symptoms of an appliance that does not have proper ventilation may be strange smells when you use the appliance or wetness on the inner pane of your windows.
- BE SURE that there are no more gas leaks before you decide to turn your gas back on.
- It is best to not cut off the gas supply at the meter. However, if the gas supply is turned off, please do not turn it on again without proper training or professional advice. Allow the onsite experts or your gas company to revive any pilot lights and turn your gas back on for you.
Gas Emergency Prevention
Lines of Defense Against Gas Leaks:
- Practice the preventative gas safety behaviors (listed right below).
- Install one natural gas detector on every level of your home.
- Use your nose. Gas and utility companies put Mercaptan into all natural gas to make it smell like rotten eggs so that your nose can also be a line of defense.
- Act immediately! See the “In the Event of a Natural Gas Leak in Your Home” section above.
Preventative Gas Safety Behaviors:
- If there is a possibility of any water damage to an appliance, please buy a new appliance and have a professional install it for you as water can damage or improper installation of a gas appliance can indirectly be the cause of a leak.
- It is more prudent to not install natural gas appliances yourself. It is safer to hire an expert to do so for you so that proper installation is of higher likelihood.
- Try not to obstruct ventilation openings or temperature controls of your gas appliance.
- Most gas appliances will have a blue colored flame. There may be some yellow or orange in the flame occasionally as well and this is most probably fine. However, if your gas appliance does not have any flame, this could be a sign of a gas leak as the fire is a sign that the gas is being properly consumed rather than simply leaking into the air.
- Keep your oven clean and do not use too much tin foil inside of the oven.
- Do not use your gas oven or stove to heat your home.
- If you are not using them, please turn off any gas fireplaces and/or space heaters. Additionally, always remember to turn them off before you leave the house or room for an extended period of time and definitely turn them off when you go to sleep as well.
- Any pipes or tubing that connect gas appliances must be checked by a qualified professional. Problems can occur due to corrosion, loosening, twisting, or decline of the piping. You should ensure that your connectors are newer than 50 years.
- Ensure that water heater thermostats are set to be 125 degrees or below.
- Do not place anything on or near your water heater or furnace as obstructions of air flow can cause the appliances to work improperly.
- Ensure that common flammable substances such as paint or paint strippers, gasoline, glues, polishes, turpentine, aerosol cans, thinners, household cleaners, pool chemicals, or anything else like this are far away from natural gas powered appliances and equipment. Please turn off all gas appliances when using and keep the space well ventilated.
Importance of Shut-off Valves
The truth is that gas powered appliances are the largest cause of gas leaks within the home (as opposed to outside the home where piping and gas supply leaks are the largest source). Having shut-off valve will allow you to cut off the gas supply at the appliance as opposed to relying on turning off the gas service at the meter which turns off the gas supply for your entire residence at the source. A shut-off valve is recommended to be installed with every natural gas appliance.
Learn to Turn off Your Gas
Learn where your gas meter is located and learn how to shut it off and on, just in case you absolutely need to do this. IMPORTANT: Be very careful when dealing with gas shut off meters. The meter may be charged up with electricity and can be harmful if you are not educated and aware.
Get Safety Inspections
We recommend to have furnaces, boilers, ranges, water heaters and washer/dryers inspected to ensure your safety and the safety of those around you. Safety inspections on a yearly basis are usually recommended by manufacturers in most cases. You must have your safety inspection(s) done by an experienced, licensed professional with a proven track record. If you do not have your gas appliances maintained in a responsible way, this may lead to gas leaks and possibly even death. If you have not had an inspection performed within the last three years, you should make an appointment today for you and your family’s safety and the safety of those around you. You may simply go on Google as a first step to find a proper safety inspector in your area.
Proper use of all your gas appliances is a “MUST” when it comes to safety and limiting natural gas, CO, or fire emergencies. Simply follow these tips to ensure proper maintenance of your natural gas appliances:
- Get your annual inspection for all gas appliances.
- In colder climates and higher altitude places where it is more likely to have a snow build-up, ensure that gas appliances are clear of blockage and ventilation obstructions.
- Be cautious and do not use incendiary products near any gas appliances. Dangerous products that you do not want anywhere near your gas appliances are solvents, paints, bug repellants, household cleaners, thinners, and any pressed containers. Use of these products near a gas appliance can allow combustible vapors into the air and ultimately ignite the burner flame of your gas appliance.
- As stated above, if a burner flame has occasional yellow or orange spots in it, then it is probably ok. However, if the flame is too large or is not constant in its color or size, then be sure to get the appliance inspected right away.
- Do not ever use your oven, grill, or space heater to try to heat your domicile. These appliances were not made to do that and will eventually fail.
- Be responsible and take action to maintain and ensure that your gas appliances are safe for use.
- Vacuum the floor furnace often.
- Ensure that children stay away from the grate of the furnace.
- Do not place anything that could light on fire on the grill of the furnace or block any air flow to your floor furnace.
Gas Wall Heater
- Dust off and sanitize the burner compartment of wall furnaces during heating season every month. You must ensure that there is no accumulation of dust in your wall furnace.
Gravity Heating System
- Keep the furnace clean so that the heat registers do not contain any dust or lint.
- Do not place anything that could light on fire on the grill of the furnace or block any air flow to your floor furnace.
Central Forced-Air Furnace
- Most have a filter that cleans the air before heating and circulating it throughout the home. A clogged filter can reduce heater efficiency.
- Change your furnace filter every month or as needed depending on how dusty it is.
- After you change the filter, make sure to then correctly put the front door panel of the furnace back on so that it is not loose.
- Do not operate the furnace unless the front panel door is properly installed. There may be a risk of unsafe carbon monoxide exposure if the front panel door is not properly installed.
- Avoid burning yourself and also reduce energy costs by setting the temperature of the water heater below the recommended setting of the manufacturer.
- If the water hear is installed in your garage, it is recommended to elevate pilot light of the water heater 18 inches off the ground.
- It is recommended to install your water heater firmly to the wall or a support column so that the water heat cannot be moved.
Interior Gas Pipes
It is highly recommended to get the gas pipes inside of your home inspected on a regular basis in order to reduce the risk of gas leaks and to ensure that your interior gas piping system is installed correctly. You must also check the electrical bonds and the grounding of your gas piping system. Copper and black steel are bound correctly when your gas appliance that needs electricity to work properly (for example, your furnace) has a grounding conductor connection. CSST (aka “Corrugated Stainless Steel Tubing”) that is yellow must have a direct bond to reduce the risk of harm to the CSST in the in case of a lightning strike to or nearby your property. Having yellow CSST systems requires that a separate copper connection be installed in order to connect the electrical grounding system to the CSST. If you do not know or if you are simply unsure if your gas pipes are correctly bound, please contact a qualified professional, licensed technician or even home inspector for an inspection.
If you’re a property owner, it is your responsibility to properly maintain all of the gas pipes and lines on your property. This includes all piping in the following locations:
- The distance between your gas meter and your house (if your meter isn’t right next to your house).
- The distance between your gas meter and the serviced gas appliances on your property.
- The distance between your underground gas meter to an edifice, pool heater, barbecue gas grill or any other gas appliances.
Gas connectors are corrugated metal tubes used to connect gas appliances in your home to fuel gas supply pipes. If you have the older brass connectors, you may have an increased risk of a gas emergency because the older brass connectors have a severe defect in the connection of their tubing with their end pieces. When using brass connectors, gas lines have been known to come apart from the end pieces which can cause serious gas leaks or even gas detonations. Countless brass connectors are still in use and, if you have them in your home, you should immediately replace them with either stainless steel or plastic-coated brass connectors.
In addition to the type of connectors you are using in your home, please take care to not move or bend your gas connectors too much. The proper and most prudent action you could take would be to replace the connectors anytime your remove or replace an appliance that uses gas connectors. But please also be forewarned that professionals should replace and check your connects for you. You should not try to check or replace your gas connectors yourself. Please also note that a common mistake which causes gas leaks is when people move gas appliances to clean behind or around them and end up causing their old brass connectors to fail. It is best to not attempt to move gas appliances in order to clean or check on them.
Yes, 811, not 911. If you have natural gas in your home or apartment, you have buried gas and other utility lines in your yard, under your property, beneath the sidewalk, etc. Call 811 to contact the Underground Service Alert (USA) service which will ultimately educate you on where certain critical supply lines may be located so that you do not accidentally dig them up and/or damage them. Calling 811 will prevent the risk of having a gas or other type of emergency. If you are digging near gas lines, please use the appropriate precision tools to avoid puncturing a line. Don’t just dig! Call 811!
How to recognize a gas pipeline leak
- SMELL: As already mentioned above, all natural gas for residential consumption has “rotten egg” smell which is added to it. You will know there is a gas leak when you smell it.
- LISTEN: You may actually hear a gas leak as well. Gas leaks sometimes have a whistling or hissing sound which may be the sound of natural gas leaking out of the gas line.
- SEARCH (for signs): Examples include…
- A damaged connection to a gas appliance
- Foliage or dead plants lying over a pipeline
- Visible, exposed pipeline