How to Detect a Natural Gas Leak

a closeup of an orange valve
What You'll Need

Knowing how to detect a natural gas leak is a must if you have natural gas appliances in your home.You can always install a natural gas detector, however, in the absence of one, discovering and fixing a leak is a matter of safety and could be a matter of life and death.

Safety First

If you think there is a gas leak in your home, open windows to let in fresh air. Do not light a cigarette or candle and don't flick on a light switch or use a telephone inside. A spark from any of these things could cause an explosion if there is a leak or gas build up. Remove all family and pets if possible. If you have any doubts about how to handle a gas leak, call your local gas supplier for help. A gas leak can be a serious matter.

Detecting by Odor

Natural gas in its normal state is odorless. Gas suppliers add a scent to it so it can be detected if there is a leak. Many people think this smell is like rotten eggs. At any rate, it is strong and unpleasant and there is no mistaking it. This scent should be your first line of defense in detecting a leak.

Determine which appliances in your home use natural gas and go near them and sniff. The odor will be stronger around an appliance that has a leak. While you're doing this, check to see if the pilot light on these appliances is still lit. This would also cause a strong smell of gas. Many modern appliances don't have pilot lights and instead have electric igniters. If you determine where the odor is coming from, turn off the gas to that appliance by turning the angle switch on the gas supply line leading into that appliance until it can be repaired either by you or a repairman.

Detecting by Sound

A gas leak can cause a hissing sound, so while you're checking for the gas leaks by odor, listen for a hissing sound. In order for this sound to be heard, it would be a substantial leak, so beware and follow all safety rules.

Detecting a Bad Connection

If you have your appliances connected to natural gas lines it could be a matter of the connections not being tight enough. Mix together a little bit of soap and water and dip your finger in it then rub it onto the connection. If bubbles appear, you have a leak in that connection. Tighten the connection then do the soap bubble test again to determine if it is still leaking. Continue this until there is no leak.

If the leak continues, turn off the gas supply to that appliance and disconnect that joint. Using plumbers tape that is rated for gas installation, wrap the threads of the pipe and reconnect the appliance, follow our guide here. Turn the gas back on and repeat the soap bubble test.

Detecting a Meter Leak

If your meter is leaking you will smell a strong odor around it also. In this instance, you should call the gas company immediately and turn off the gas to the meter if you know how. You shouldn't try to repair a gas leak into a meter as this is a job for a professional.