Because of the spike in inquires in the wake of the massive California natural gas explosions, I’m reposting an article from last year. If you read no further, carry this away: take gas leaks seriously.
We had a few searches hit our website with people asking if natural gas leaks can kill you. YES, THEY CAN. They should be taken very seriously. The big risk is fire or explosion–enough to lose your home and injure or kill everyone in it. [Google "gas leak house fire" for recent examples, beyond the California disaster.]
If you smell gas, it’s a bad leak and should be fixed. Note that propone can be even more problematic since it’s heavier than air and can settle and collect in low spots like basements. If you notice a faint smell of gas, call the gas company or a qualified contractor immediately. If you notice a strong smell of gas, get out of the house immediately and then call the gas company from a safe location. You may not be able to detect leaks be smell, however, and you should have your lines tested for leaks periodically–we suggest doing so along with your regular furnace maintenance.
This is not an alarmist plea to panic about using gas. It’s what I use to heat my home, and it’s how most homes in the U.S. are heated. It has great advantages as a heating fuel. I much prefer it to oil, which is dirtier, smellier, and fouls equipment faster. It also allows for much more efficient equipment. But gas must be used safely, and leaks should be taken seriously.
That’s why you should have your home tested for gas leaks and combustion safety issues (such as proper drafting of fuel-burning appliances and carbon monoxide spillage). This is particulary true if you’re changing your house–remodeling, adding windows, insulating and air-sealing, etc since you not only have the risk of bumping pipe and loosening joints, but you also change to dynamics of how the house operates.
Take gas leaks seriously. And insist that anyone working in your house take them seriously, too.