What's That Smell? Why Gas Leaks Are Serious Business

If you have a gas furnace, you have to be diligent when it comes to maintaining your unit due to the dangers associated with gas leaks. Gas leaks are so dangerous, in fact, that they can prove deadly if they are not noticed in time. While some gas leaks are easily noticed due to the unmistakable odor of natural gas or propane, others are not.

In some cases, homeowners don't realize that there is a leak because they have an old unit that lets off an exhaust smell that can be similar to that of a gas leak. If you notice a gas smell that comes directly from your heating vents or if the smell gets stronger as you get closer to your furnace, call your gas company immediately. There are a couple of reasons why gas leaks are serious business. 

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

The most common injury associated with a gas leak is carbon monoxide poisoning. This type of poisoning is exceptionally dangerous because it is deadly -- carbon monoxide poisoning accounts for most gas leak deaths -- and it is extremely difficult to diagnose. In fact, most people who experience carbon monoxide poisoning don't even realize that something is wrong. Some of the most common symptoms associated with poisoning include a headache, dizziness and exhaustion: symptoms that most people associate with a simple illness, such as the flu.

The best way to keep your family safe from carbon monoxide poisoning is to install a carbon monoxide detector in your home. This type of alarm will go off when carbon monoxide reaches dangerous levels, giving your family plenty of time to get out safely.

Fire Risks and Explosive Tendencies

Both propane and natural gas are combustible, meaning they will explode or catch fire. Since propane is heavier than gas, it has a tendency to remain concentrated in a specific area, making explosions more likely. Natural gas, on the other hand, tends to dissipate rather quickly. A small amount of gas usually poses little threat. When the concentration of gas reaches 10 percent or more, however, the risk of fire and/or explosion escalates rapidly. 

Most gas leaks occur as the result of faulty valves in your furnace's heat exchanger. Corroded pipes may also allow gas to enter your home. All of these occurrences can be easily prevented with proper maintenance and inspection of your unit. To keep your unit safe, be sure to have your furnace inspected by a company like Midnight Sun Sheet Metal and Heating Inc at the beginning of each heating season.