We all know that gas leaks are a serious hazard, so if you smell gas in your property or suspect a gas leak follow our tips to help identify the problem.
What causes a gas leak?
A gas leak in the home can be caused by poorly fitted, poorly maintained, or faulty gas appliances, such as a boiler or cooker. Gas leaks can also be caused by issues with gas pipework or the gas meter itself.
Gas appliances should be installed and serviced by suitably competent Gas Safe Registered engineers; failing to do this may result in a gas leak at home. Although you should always employ a professional to service your gas boiler, there are a few boiler maintenance tips you can follow to help make sure it stays in top condition.
How to detect a gas leak
There are many signs that you have a gas leak; the most tell-tale being the smell of gas in your home. Follow our useful checklist below to help you detect a gas leak in your property:
Check flames on gas appliances
All gas appliances should have blue flames, as this means they have enough oxygen to burn efficiently. If you notice that they have turned orange or yellow then there may signal an issue and should be checked by a Gas Safe Registered engineer.
Sniff out unpleasant odours
Natural gas has a chemical called mercaptan added making it easier to detect gas leaks. If you notice an unpleasant smell coming from a gas fitting, pipework or appliance, turn off the gas supply immediately and get some fresh air.
What to do if you smell gas
According to Gas Safe, in a gas emergency it is important to act quickly and take the following steps:
- Get fresh air immediately. Open all doors and windows to ventilate the room.
- Switch off the appliance and do not use it again until it has been checked by a Gas Safe Registered engineer
- Turn off the gas supply at the mains and do not operate any electrical switches. Do not turn your gas appliances back on until it has been deemed safe by a qualified engineer.
- Call the National Gas Emergency line on 0800 111 999 (further information below).
- If you, or someone else, are feeling ill, move to a position outside the building and visit your GP or the hospital immediately. Tell them that your symptoms may be related to carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Contact a Gas Safe Registered engineer to check and fix the appliance.
- Carbon monoxide poisoning is an uncommon but potentially fatal outcome of poor gas works and can be hard to detect without an all-important carbon monoxide alarm (If you don’t have one of these in your home put it at the top of your to-do list).
National Gas Emergency Service Provider
If you can smell gas or you think you may have a gas leak, call the National Gas Emergency Service Provider (ESP) from the outside of your property on 0800 111 999. The number is free and available 24 hours a day.
The kind of information you’ll be asked for will include:
- The address/location of the suspected gas leak or gas emergency
- How many people are at the property where the smell is most noticeable?
- How long has the smell been noticeable?
- Is the smell coming from the cellar/basement?
- Are any neighbours affected?
- Your name and phone number
- Any special circumstances or access information
What should you NOT do?
- Do not operate any electrical switches (either on or off)
- Do not smoke
- Do not use doorbells, mobile phones or any other electrical switches which could cause a spark
What if the gas leak is coming from outside?
If the gas leak is coming from outside, it should be repaired free of charge. Contact the National Gas Emergency Services on 0800 111 999 to report the leak.
What if the gas leak is indoors?
The first call engineer from the ESP will always perform a visual gas safety check when called to a suspected gas escape. However, the ESP under the terms of its licence doesn’t cover repairs to appliances or installation pipework.
So what do you do next?
Once the property has been made safe, the ESP will explain that any work on appliances (e.g. cookers, boilers or fires) will have to be carried out by a Gas Safe Registered engineer.
How to turn your gas off at the meter
Locate your gas meter
The gas Emergency Control Valve (ECV) is located alongside your gas meter. This is typically located outside in a meter box, however, it may also be found under the stairs, beneath the kitchen sink, or in the garage.
Turn off the gas safety shut-off valve
Once you’ve located your gas meter and turned off all gas appliances inside your home, you’ll then need to turn the gas ECV to the ‘off’ position. You’ll know it’s in the off position once it’s at a right angle to the pipe.
Install CO detectors
Poorly maintained, or incorrectly installed gas appliances and fittings can also produce an odourless gas. Consider installing carbon monoxide detectors in your home to detect CO leaks.
Carbon monoxide is a highly poisonous gas produced when carbon-based fuels such as gas, oil, and coal aren’t burned fully. It can be emitted from several places around the home such as gas stoves, fireplaces and hot water heaters. It’s best to place a carbon monoxide detector on each level of your home. These can typically be purchased from your local DIY store and should be designed and built to BS EN 50291 and display the BSi kitemark.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning
If there are carbon monoxide emissions in your home there are six main symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning to look out for:
- Loss of consciousness
If you believe you may be suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning:
- Turn off any gas appliances
- Call the gas emergency service provider on 0800 111 999
- Open all doors and windows in your home and make sure you get some fresh air
If you show the symptoms listed above make your way to your local doctor or hospital as soon as you can – they can do a simple blood/breath test to confirm or dismiss your symptoms as carbon monoxide poisoning. Always follow the advice from the Gas Emergency Services.
How to prevent a gas leak
There are a number of things you can do to prevent a gas leak:
- Always ensure gas appliances are installed by a Gas Safe Registered engineer
- Ensure you have an inspection or service of all of your boiler and gas appliances by a Gas Safe Registered engineer on an annual basis as a minimum. The engineer can also carry out a tightness test of your gas installation to determine if you have any gas leaks in the house.
Remember, you should only use gas appliances for their intended purpose. For example, a cooker must not be used to heat a room. Discover more gas safety tips here.
Regular maintenance and boiler inspections can not only help prevent gas leaks and reduce the risk of a breakdown, but can also prolong the life of your boiler.
Find out more information about booking an annual boiler service with HomeServe.