Technically, natural gas does not have a smell. But because a buildup of natural gas is dangerous, gas companies add a harmless chemical called mercaptan to give gas a detectable (and not very pleasant) odor. Most people say mercaptan smells like rotten eggs or sulfur. Here at Getzschman Heating and Air Conditioning, we put safety first. Here is some information about gas leaks, the dangers involved and what to do if you smell natural gas.
Why Is a Natural Gas Buildup Dangerous?
Natural gas can be dangerous in two ways:
First of all, inhaling a high concentration of natural gas can lead to asphyxia. Natural gas works as a poison by decreasing the amount of oxygen your body takes in when you breathe. When natural gas leaks into the air, it takes up the space of oxygen. The more gas in the air, the less oxygen in the air. When you breathe this air with less oxygen, your red blood cells pick up less oxygen and are unable to carry enough oxygen to your organs. Natural gas getting into your body itself isn’t the problem, but rather it’s the decrease of oxygen getting into your body that causes the problem. Symptoms may mimic the flu – weakness, nausea, and headaches – or may include chest pain, ringing in your ears, dizziness, or breathing difficulties. Luckily, unlike carbon monoxide, natural gas can usually be detected by smell.
Secondly, natural gas can cause explosions. Natural gas is very flammable, which means that if there’s a flame or even a spark in the area of a leak, it could cause a fire or explosion.
Does a Carbon Monoxide Detector Detect Natural Gas?
You might think that your carbon monoxide detector would pick up natural gas, but most carbon monoxide detectors won’t because they are different types of gas entirely. You must depend on the smell for natural gas detection. The best option to detect harmful gas leaks is a hybrid alarm that detects both carbon monoxide and other explosive gases, such as methane, propane, and other natural gases. You can find them at home improvement stores or on Amazon for under $50.
What to Do if You Smell Natural Gas
If you smell a natural gas odor, hear the hissing sound of gas escaping, or see other signs of a leak, evacuate the area and call 911 from a safe location. Don’t use your cell phone inside the house. Don’t turn on or off any lights or appliances or open the garage door. All of these actions could cause a spark. While natural gas leaks are rare, they can happen both inside and outside of your home. If you use gas burning appliances or use natural gas for heating, make sure to have yearly inspections. Gas leaks are dangerous, but luckily, they are also preventable.
If you smell natural gas, follow these instructions and stay safe. If you need help with your air conditioner, furnace, or heat pump, call the G-Force team – Omaha’s most trusted air conditioner and furnace repair team.