There is a romance to cooking over a flame. Whether your building came with a gas stove or you adore them and have one installed, it’s important to understand the one overarching risk of cooking with gas: Gas leaks.
Just as unconstrained electricity can be dangerous, so can unconfined gas. The trouble is that natural gas that fuels a stove or oven can expand invisibly and toxically into any room with a gas leak. While electrical problems can spark or shock when malfunctioning, gas can leak with very little sign.
Today, we’re here to talk about how to detect gas leaks to ensure the safety of your building and of any who cook at the stove.
Early Detection of Gas Leaks
The Smell of Natural Gas
You’ve likely heard that natural gas smells something like rotten eggs, and this is true of gas provided by a utility company. What you might not know is that this is an artificial smell. Natural gas is an odorless vapor, but it’s so dangerous to breathe and potentially explosive that the municipalities decided that wasn’t safe to pipe into homes and businesses. So they added the rotten-eggs smell just as an alert mechanism to increase the chance that property owners notice a gas leak before anyone gets hurt.
So trust your nose. If you smell rotten eggs and it’s not sulfur on the wind outdoors, it’s time to air out your house and start hunting for the leak with testing methods.
Listen for Hissing
The number one reason for gas leak detection, other than poisonous gas detectors in the home, is the sound of hissing. We become accustomed to the soft ambient sounds of the building. However, the high-pitched sounds of gas hissing, even faintly, should always catch your attention. Take time at least once a month to listen carefully in and around the gas stove range. Listen for the hissing sound of gas escaping from the gas lines, the burners, and the oven itself. Put your ear to the areas where gas flows for the first sign of a gas leak. Of course, just because you don’t hear a high-pressure hissing doesn’t mean a gas leak is impossible. Very small gas leaks are still dangerous but may not be audible.
Investigating a Possible Gas Leak
Check the Pilot Light
Next, check the tiny flicker of gas that is always running to maintain the pilot light in your stove. Some stoves have two or more pilot lights. When fire burns natural gas, it burns away cleanly and is safe. However, if that pilot light goes out, then the tiny trickle of gas meant to maintain it effectively becomes a gas leak. Any time the pilot light is out is a danger to the house and the family. The faster you discover this, the better. We recommend checking the pilot lights in your home daily, especially if your burners will not light on their own.
Turn Off and Examine Each Burner
Burners can also become the source of gas leaks, as they are the end-points of the gas line. If the gas line is open when it should be closed, or the burners are left partially on without fire, this also equates a gas leak that can escape through the burners. Look closely at your burners, never lean on the knobs, and be sure that your burners are not leaking gas on days when you cook and days that you don’t cook.
Check the Inside of the Gas Oven
Check the oven. First, open the oven and sniff. If the oven has been leaking gas and is full of gas, be careful and do not expose yourself to harm. Find where the gas line heats the oven and test it with your testing solution and device.
Testing to Confirm or Find a Gas Leak
Leak Testing Solution
Leak testing solution is a viscous liquid that you can drip or spread onto a gas line. This viscous liquid should ooze smoothly over any gas connection without a change. However, the liquid was designed to reveal gas leaks. The way it does this is with bubbles. Because leak testing solution is viscous, the pressure of gas leaking out of the connection will cause it to bubble, and then to break. This turns an invisible gas leak into a visible one.
Electronic Natural Gas Tester
Your third method to detect a gas leak is a handheld electronic tool. Like a smoke detector and carbon monoxide detectors, this handheld device can ‘sniff’ natural gas and will beep or light up depending on the model if gas is detected. These devices vary from brand to brand, so we advise reading the instructions that come with your tester before running a test. Find out how to insert the batteries, what settings to set, and what dials or buttons to activate to determine if there is a gas leak around the stove, gas line, or inside the oven.
Check the Gas Line Behind the Stove
When seeking out or checking for a gas leak, start with the gas line. This is normally found behind your gas cooktop, where the stove attaches by pipe or hose to the gas line in the wall. Check every joint along the connection line, ensuring that every valve is fully closed and that the pipe itself is integrous. First listen and sniff, using your senses for a preliminary assessment. Then test with liquid gas leak detection solution, followed by an electronic reading. If you only have one of the two testing methods, use it to get a preliminary answer.
What to Do If You Detect a Gas Leak from Your Cooktop
If you detect a gas leak in your gas cooktop stove, don’t try to repair it yourself. First, air out the building and clear everyone from the area. Open doors and windows and turn on fans to make sure that natural gas does not build up causing a breathing or explosion hazard. Then turn off the gas line to the stove, and possibly the main gas line in your house. Airing out the house initially gives you time to safely find and operate the valve.
Then, if you cannot quickly fix the problem (ex: a burner left on with no flame) call for emergency services. If the leak is still small and quickly managed, now is the time to call for repairs on your gas cooktop stove. It’s always better to be 100% sure about safety when it comes to the natural gas line in any home or business.