It's every homeowner's worst nightmare: the smell of natural gas. The unmistakable smell of the odorant added to natural gas is enough to send shivers down anyone's spine. When you detect that odor in your own home, there's little left to do except get out as quickly as possible while calling for help. While sudden gas leaks are rare, they do happen often enough that understanding their causes and signs is a critical part of owning a home.

Leak Boot Camp: Recognizing the Problem

Before getting to the typical causes of gas line leaks, it's first good to know how to recognize one. The smell of rotten eggs commonly associated with gas line leaks is the result of an odorant blended with the natural gas in your line. This distinctive smell helps you to recognize when natural gas is escaping into your home, but it is far from foolproof. For example, relatively small leaks may not release enough of the odorant into the air to be easily detectable.

Noticing leaks that are too small to smell is all about vigilance. When working near a gas appliance, always listen carefully. Hissing noises should be a cause for immediate concern, even if you do not smell a leak. Unusually high gas bills should always be investigated, as well. If in doubt, contact a professional and describe your situation so that they can properly advise you on your best course of action.

Why Do Leaks Happen?

Once you've adequately ventilated the area and left the house, you're probably left wondering how this could happen to you. Unfortunately, gas leaks often develop for reasons that are entirely outside of the homeowner's control. The two most common causes of residential leaks are old, corroded pipes, and poorly installed appliance fittings.

For the former problem, there is rarely anyone to blame other than time itself. Many older homes still use copper pipes and some municipalities allow this material. Over time, copper can corrode and leak. Depending on the location of the pipe, this can lead to direct leaks into your home or slow leaks outside that allow small amounts of gas to enter into the residence. On the other hand, issues with appliance fittings are usually more apparent and often result in leaks noticeable to anyone standing near the appliance.

Getting It Fixed

Remember the number one rule when facing a gas leak: never ignore it! If you suspect a gas problem, contact a properly licensed technician immediately. Gas line repair is often a straightforward job, but it must be performed by a technician. Getting the job done right is critical to solve your immediate leak and prevent the appearance of future leaks in your home.