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Ten ways to detect a gas leak

25 Jun, 2023 | Business LPG Blogs, Residential LPG Blogs

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LPG cylinders have built-in safety measures that make leaks and issues noticeable. This article outlines easy and proven ways to safely check for an LPG leak at home or work and how to manage it.
LPG leak detection

10 Ways to Detect a Gas Leak in Your Home

When you suspect a gas leak at home or work, immediately leave the area and call emergency services (000). Do not further inspect the leak, as LPG is highly flammable and combustible and may lead to an explosion or fire hazard.

Here is a summary of ten ways to detect a gas leak in your home:

  1. Smelling rotten eggs
  2. Hearing a gas leak hissing noise
  3. Electronic gas leak detectors tripping off
  4. Increased gas bills than usual
  5. Seeing moving dust or a white mist
  6. Yellow, orange, or red gas flame colour
  7. Scorching or soot in an unusual location on the gas appliance
  8. Gas pilot light keeps going out
  9. Dead or dying plants in the kitchen or near the gas appliance
  10. Feeling unwell

1. Smelling a Foul Odour Like Rotten Eggs

For safety reasons, the LPG gas suppliers add an Ethyl Mercaptan odourant to the gas mixture to help detect a leak in your home when you smell gas. Ethyl Mercaptan is an organosulfur compound that provides a warning odour to LPG gases such as propane, butane, and petroleum.

Natural gas and LPG are naturally colourless and odourless without this additive. When gas leaks from the cylinder, Ethyl Mercaptan is released with the gas, which you inhale. Most people smell rotten eggs or rotten cabbage when there’s a gas leak.

If you notice a foul smell near all of your gas appliances, check them and report the smell to emergency services (000) immediately.

2. Using Your Ears

Leaking gas from a small opening may cause a hissing noise. Note that gas only produces hissing noise at higher flow rates, meaning a lot of gas fuel is leaking from the gas cylinder. Once again, check near all of your gas appliances.

Once you determine the general area, you can utilise the soapy water leak test to identify the exact location of the leak. Be sure to check all connections with the soapy water, as well.

However, we do not recommend this once you hear a hissing noise and smell a strong odour of rotting eggs. Leave the area immediately, turn off any open flames or ignition source, and open all the doors. Call emergency services (000) and let them inspect the situation further.

3. Electronic Detectors

Another safer way to detect LPG gas leakage is via electronic gas detectors. These work by allowing gas to diffuse through a membrane and a set of electrode detectors that slightly change current when the gas is chemically oxidised (or reduced).

In other words, when gas passes through the electrochemical gas detector, it slightly changes the current of the electrodes, tripping the alarm.

They can be stationary or handheld portables. It has an audio alarm, similar to a smoke detector.

4. Higher Gas Bills

If you’ve been keeping track of your gas bills (utility pipes for LNG and frequency of cylinder deliveries for LPG), you might notice an obvious spike if there’s an undetected leak.

Sometimes, gas cylinder leaks may be so small and subtle that you can’t detect them, but the meter doesn’t lie, and leaks may show up as increased consumption.

Remember to use units like cubic meters, cubic feet, kilograms, litres, or gallons and not their monetary value. Volumetric and mass units are fixed, while prices per cubic metre may vary.

Remember that colder weather, additional gas appliances, or extra house guests can increase or fluctuate gas use.

5. Visual Indicators (Mist or Cloud)

If you observe a white mist or cloud around your LPG storage or gas appliance, it could indicate gas leaks or pipe rupture. Swirling dust or particles may also indicate a constantly moving gas from one direction, which is often the source of the leak.

In these situations, leave the area immediately and call for emergency services (000) from a safe location.

6. Flame Colour

A well-maintained gas appliance should produce optimal gas flow and combustion, producing a blue flame. If you notice red or yellow flame on your burners, it could often mean your appliances need cleaning, or that carbon monoxide is produced due to incomplete combustion.

Otherwise, you may have a leak.

Gas appliances should be cleaned once every two years or depending on the manufacturer’s recommendation.

7. Scorching or Soot

If you see scorching or soot in an unusual location on the appliance, it may indicate a leak when turned on.

For example, a burner connection that is leaking may create a flame in an unintended place. This is a serious issue as a fire hazard and ignition already exist. As soon as you notice scorching or soot, leave the area and proceed to a safe location before calling emergency services (000).

8. Pilot Lights That Go Out

Pilot lights are small flames kept lit in a gas appliance. They ignite the flowing gas to turn the appliance on and produce heat.

Whilst pilot lights are much rarer in modern gas appliances, they still exist. Leaks are one cause for a pilot light to keep going out.

An intermittent pilot light becomes a problem because if left unnoticed, gas will keep flowing out of the burner without getting ignited, accumulating in your kitchen or space.

If the pilot light suddenly lights back up, it may ignite the accumulated gas, which could combust and cause massive fires in the kitchen or household. If you have that problem, it is time for a service call.

9. Dead or Dying Plants or Trees

Plants are very sensitive to atmospheric changes.

If an underground gas leak occurs caused by corroding pipes or other deterioration, plants or trees nearby may die from suffocation. House plants can also be affected.

If there is no other obvious reason for the tree/plant problem and they are near or on top of a buried gas line, it is worth getting it checked with a gas detector.

Leaking gas may even affect indoor plants. If you notice that only those ornamental plants near LPG cylinders and LNG lines are wilting, it may be a sign to contact emergency services (000) to have them take a look.

10. Feeling Unwell Due to Possible Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Nausea, headaches, difficulty or irregular breathing, fatigue, chest pain, flu-like symptoms, dizziness or light-headedness, and drowsiness can all be signs of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

Typically, properly functioning gas appliances are quite safe. A blue flame is one indication of proper function and complete combustion.

As discussed, malfunctioning units may cause incomplete combustion and produce carbon monoxide. These are caused by clogged gas lines, rusted burner nozzles, an intermittent pilot light, or a gas appliance that needs thorough cleaning.

If you experience any signs of carbon monoxide poisoning while operating your indoor gas appliance, you should stop using it until it is serviced by your gas fitter.

Final Thoughts

Proper maintenance, observing safety procedures, and using appropriate gas leak detection devices can help preserve your property and avoid fire hazards.

If you notice any subtle signs of a gas leak, turn off the gas at the meter of the gas bottle.

Also, if it is safe to do so, leave windows and doors open and then evacuate the building.

Do not operate electrical switches or other ignition sources, including telephones. As soon as you are in a safe location, call emergency services (000) for assistance.

If there is a fire involved, just evacuate immediately and call for help as soon as possible.


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