CALL US: 855-928-2424   |   EMAIL US 

Request a Consultation

Need more information? Check out our Services Page for details.

What To Do Immediately if You Smell a Natural Gas Leak

July 9, 2024


We almost had the unthinkable happen! On a recent visit to a client’s home, Yvonne, one of our Home Watchers, opened the front door and was hit with the unmistakable odor of natural gas! Did she know what to do immediately for a natural gas leak? Yes, because of our intense training.

Without a delay, Yvonne closed the door, left the home and called 911. Immediately after that call, she called our office to notify me, the owner. I then called the homeowner and their homeowners association office to notify them of a suspected natural gas leak. Within minutes, the Fairfax County Fire Department was on site and since we were engaged as the homeowners’ Home Watch company, we were able to give the authorities access to the home.

Would YOU Know What to do if You Smelled a Natural Gas Leak? Here’s a Quick Safety Guide:

  1. Leave and get away from the building at once.
  2. Once you are at a safe distance from the home, call 911 and Washington Gas on its 24/7 emergency line at 844-927-4427 (Northern Virginia) to report the leak.
  3. DO NOT re-enter the building until it has been declared safe by the professionals.
  4. DO NOT use an electrical switch, appliance or phone in the home. These can create sparks. In addition, do not light a match, candle or open flame.
  5. DO NOT open a door or window. For natural gas to combust, it needs an appropriate mix of gas and air. Opening a door or window could optimize ideal conditions for combustion and result in an explosion. This can be counterintuitive to what you would normally want to do. Another reason not to open a door or window, or to try to “air out” the home, is because first responders have sensors to determine a natural gas concentration within a home. They can detect where the natural gas is concentrated and thereby help identify the source of the leak.
  6. DO NOT attempt to locate the source of the leak yourself or attempt to fix it.
  7. DO NOT start your car or any vehicle near the area. This could also ignite the gas.

How Do You Know There is a Natural Gas Leak?

Since natural gas is odorless and colorless, the natural gas suppliers or utilities insert a chemical called methyl mercaptan (CH3SH) or ethyl mercaptan (C2H5SH), a sulfur-containing compound to give the gas an unpleasant odor similar to rotten eggs or decaying cabbage. The insertion process is known as odorization.

What Could Happen if There is a Natural Gas Leak in Your Home?

Several dangerous consequences could happen if you have a natural gas leak in your home.

  • The gas could accumulate and create an explosive environment, with a risk of fire or an explosion if ignited by a spark or flame
  • Prolonged exposure to natural gas can lead to health issues such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, and even asphyxiation since it displaces oxygen in the air.
  • Natural gas could cause significant property damage and costly repairs.

How Long Would a Natural Gas Leak Have to Build Up to Create an Explosion?

The size of the leak, the gas release rate, area ventilation, and the size of the enclosed space all play factors. In a poorly-ventilated area, a significant leak could reach an explosive level within minutes. If you smell any signs of natural gas, treat it as an immediate emergency, leave the home, and contact the proper authorities.

Where Could a Natural Gas Leak Originate in a Home?

Common areas where natural gas leaks may occur include:

  • Gas appliances such as stoves, ovens, water heaters, furnaces and dryers due to aging pipes, faulty connections or damage components
  • Gas lines underground or within walls and ceilings from corroded, cracked or damaged pipes
  • Gas meter connections
  • Valves and fittings in the gas piping system due to wear and tear, improper installation or damage
  • Flexible gas lines used to connect appliances if not properly installed and maintained

Golden Rule Home Watch Can Protect Your Home While You're Away

The homeowners we described earlier were lucky we were there to check on their home. Otherwise, it could have become a disastrous situation.

At Golden Rule Home Watch & Concierge, we conduct regular inspections of Northern Virginia properties when the homeowners are away for an extended period. Our Home Watch inspections include checks on gas appliances, meters and visible gas lines. If a natural gas leak is detected, we take immediate action to notify the homeowner and contact the proper authorities, along with emergency services or the gas company.

To learn more about our Home Watch services, or to schedule Home Watch visits for when you’re away, contact Golden Rule Home Watch at 855-928-2424.