Natural gas is a fuel that is used to heat buildings, cook foods, heat water, dry clothes, and produce electricity. It is a colorless, odorless gas that burns cleaner and hotter than oil or coal and does not produce a lot of smoke while burning, making it an ideal choice for homes and businesses.
Natural gas does not ignite by itself; a mixture of gas combined with air must occur before it is flammable. In addition, an ignition source that has a temperature greater than 1100 degrees must be present. Possible ignition sources include pilot lights, matches, cigarette lighters, highway flares, as well as sparks from tools, doorbells, cell phones, flashlights, heating systems, garage door openers, electric motors, switches, and vehicle engines.
Because natural gas is odorless, LCUB adds a chemical called Mercaptan to the gas to provide a distinctive smell. Mercaptan has a pungent odor, like rotten eggs, and is easily noticed. Natural gas is not toxic, but it can produce carbon monoxide if it does not burn completely.
Carbon Monoxide Information
Fuels like natural gas can produce carbon monoxide if proper combustion does not occur. Carbon monoxide is a dangerous gas that has no color or odor. It deprives the body of oxygen and can lead to death.
To ensure that you are not exposed to unnecessary levels of carbon monoxide from natural gas appliances, LCUB recommends the following:
- Have all flues, chimneys, and vents cleaned yearly.
- Every year, have a licensed professional check all fuel-burning appliances for proper operation and ventilation.
- Never use a gas range for space heating or any other purpose other than cooking or baking.
- Do not operate vehicles, lawn mowers, or grills in an enclosed area.
- Avoid using a wood-burning fireplace and furnace simultaneously for long periods of time to prevent back-drafting.
- Have a carbon monoxide detector in your home and periodically test the device to ensure it works properly.
If you suspect carbon monoxide in your home, leave immediately and call 911.
Recognizing a Natural Gas Leak
Signs of a natural gas leak may include any or all of the following:
- Smell – A pungent odor that smells like rotten eggs will help you recognize a leak. LCUB adds a chemical called Mercaptan to its natural gas to ensure it is detectable by smell.
- Sound – You may hear a blowing or hissing sound near a gas appliance or a roaring sound near a gas line.
- Sight – You may see bubbling in a wet or flooded area, dry spots in moist areas, or vegetation that is dead or discolored for no apparent reason. Flames will be visible if a leak is ignited.
If you suspect a natural gas leak:
- Immediately leave the premises or building.
- Wait until after leaving the building before you contact LCUB to report the leak.
- Do not start a vehicle if it is in an attached building (garage or carport).
- Do not open an automatic garage door.
- Do not use anything that could cause a possible ignition source (e.g. matches, open flames, lighters, cigarettes, et. al.)
- Do not turn any electrical switches on or off.
- Do not use any telephone, including cellular phones, in the home or building.
- Do not go back into the building until an LCUB representative has advised it is safe.
- Watch for the LCUB vehicle to arrive and meet the representative at the truck to provide pertinent information regarding appliances service by natural gas and information regarding the suspected leak.
If you have any questions or need any additional information about natural gas, contact LCUB to speak to a Gas Department Representative.