Natural Gas Tips to Keep You Safe
Schedule Regular Pipe Maintenance and Inspections
One of the most overlooked safety measures when dealing with natural gas is regular inspections. Natural gas delivery companies (utilities) own the pipes that bring natural gas into your home up to the meter installed next to your home. They maintain all of the pipelines up to that point, but it is the homeowner’s responsibility to maintain any lines of equipment past the meter. Even if you have buried pipeline past this point such as going to a hot tub, another building, or a standby generator, it is your responsibility.
If not maintained, your pipes may leak or corrode and generate some very unsafe conditions for you and your family. The best way to protect yourself from this risk is to schedule yearly inspections of your home’s natural gas lines and pipes leading to your appliances. The technicians that inspect your lines can identify corrosion, incorrectly installed pipes, and take steps to fix your problem.
If you think that you may have a potential problem with your natural gas lines in the future due to an improper installation, uncoated brass flexible gas connectors, or corrosion, please do not hesitate to call a professional natural gas line inspector to your property to ensure that everything is in working order.
Avoid accidentally breaking pipes
Images from Call811.com
Before you dig near or around your home, you need to call 811 to identify the location of natural gas and utility lines. According to call811.com, every six minutes in the United States an underground utility line is damaged because someone decided to dig a hole without calling 811 first. 811 is a nationally mandated FCC phone number available to call anywhere in the country. Call a few days before you dig and you will automatically be routed to your local 811 call center.
By giving your local 811 call center operator a few details about how to contact you, where you plan to dig, and the type of work you will be doing, they can alert any utility companies that potentially have lines near where you intend to dig. Within a few working days, each affected utility company will send out a locator to mark the approximate location of underground utility lines. By calling 811 before you dig, you reduce your chance of damaging a line down to 1%.
Blocked Sewer or Septic lines
Most homeowners do not realize that they may have natural gas pipes running through their sewer or septic line. This running of a natural gas pipe through a sewer or septic line is called a cross bore and can be potentially dangerous if your plumber tries to unblock your line without having it inspected for cross bores.
There are a few steps that you can go through to safely clear a blocked sewer or septic line:
- Determine where the line is blocked. If the line is blocked within your home, there is no danger of a cross bore. Cross bores are only a concern with outdoor blockages.
- If you believe that your blockage may be outside, ask your plumber to call your local utility company. Your plumber may already have done this, but it is better to ask him to just to be safe. After calling your utility, they should dispatch a technician within an hour or so depending on the utility and your area.
- Once the technician is onsite, they should work with your plumber to locate sewer and gas lines to make sure that it is safe to proceed with clearing your blocked line.
In addition to this, your plumber may insert a camera into your sewer to look for cross bores. While this is a good practice, you should always make sure to have your plumber call your local utility as cross bores may be hidden behind obstructions and not visible to the plumber’s cameras.
How to know if you may have a leak
Natural gas on its own is colorless and odorless making it very hard to detect. Because of this, your local utility adds a distinctive odor, that smells like rotten eggs, to make it easier to detect natural gas. If you smell this distinctive odor, you may have a leak. If you are unfamiliar with this odor, many utilities such as Duke Energy offer Gas scratch and sniff card so that you can learn the odor.
While odor is normally a pretty good way of detecting a leak, you should not fully rely on it. Many chemical processes can reduce or fade the odor put into the natural gas lines. Look and listen to hear signs of a natural gas leak.
Some signs of a leak include:
- The sound of bubbles rising in a puddle
- Dust or dirt blowing around from a hole
- Dead or very sickly or dry looking vegetation around a pipe
- A hissing or roaring sound depending on the size of the leak
What to do if you suspect a leak
If you think that you may have a natural gas leak:
- Immediately leave the area. If you are inside, get outside.
- Call your local utility or 911 immediately after you get away from the leak and are outside. Using cellular phones of landlines near the leak could cause it to ignite.
- Do not do anything that could create a spark near the leak including flipping light switches or using other electronic devices.
Protect Yourself from Carbon Monoxide
When natural gas burns cleanly, it only produces Carbon dioxide and water. However, if there is not enough oxygen available near your fuel-burning appliance, it could create carbon monoxide (CO) instead of carbon dioxide (CO2).
Like natural gas, CO is odorless except that there is no injected odor to help you detect it like there is in natural gas. One of the best defenses against Carbon Monoxide is regular maintenance and inspection of your fuel-burning appliances and your natural gas lines. Every home should also be equipped with CO detectors near bedrooms to alert you to unsafe levels of carbon monoxide. Check these detectors regularly as they could well save your life.
Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide
Some symptoms of carbon monoxide may include:
If you think that you may be experiencing symptoms of carbon monoxide, get everyone out of the house immediately and call 911.