How Safe Is Natural Gas?

August 30th, 2016

When you choose a cooking or heating fuel source for your home, safety is among your top priorities. Natural gas is a popular fuel that homes and businesses have used for cooking and heating since the mid 1900s. This is a clean energy source and generally considered very safe, but you can increase your family’s safety by learning more about natural gas.

Is Natural Gas Explosive?

You’ve probably heard that a natural gas leak can cause an explosion. While this is true, it’s less common than you might think. For the explosive result you see in action movies, the right proportions of gas and air must meet, along with an ignition source. Odds are if you have a gas leak in your home, it will simply rise to the ceiling without causing an incident. However, it’s still important to take gas leaks seriously.

What’s that Rotten Egg Smell?

While natural gas is odorless, processing plants add Mercaptan, a nasty-smelling additive that gives natural gas its well-known rotten egg smell. This safety measure helps people detect natural gas leaks and prevents potential incidents. Thanks to this innovation, safety-related incidents involving natural gas have gone down 29 percent since 1988, even though natural gas use has increased 20 percent in that timeframe.

Detecting Natural Gas Leaks

In addition to the recognizable smell of rotten eggs, you should also use these clues to detect a natural gas leak:

  • Hissing, roaring or whistling coming from natural gas appliances
  • Water bubbling or soil movement in your yard, indicating a natural gas line leak
  • Dead vegetation above a natural gas line, indicating damage
  • Exposed natural gas lines following a flood, fire or earthquake

What to Do If Natural Gas is Leaking

The most important part of keeping your home and family safe while using natural gas is to take potential leaks seriously. If you suspect a leak:

  • Don’t create an ignition source. This means you shouldn’t turn lights on or off, unplug electrical devices, or use a phone (landline or cell). You also shouldn’t light a match or cigarette lighter. Snuff out anything currently burning to eliminate ignition sources.
  • Open windows and doors to let fresh air inside.
  • Turn off the natural gas supply at the meter.
  • Get a safe distance from your house and call 911 followed by your utility company.

For more information about natural gas safety, please contact UGI EnergyLink today.