The most commonly used appliance for heating in almost every home is a furnace. The majority of these appliances use natural gas since it is affordable and abundant. Although this type of fuel is a popular heating option, it is possible that you could experience hazardous gas leaks and sometimes fire, especially if your furnace is not properly maintained. This brings us to the question—is it normal to smell gas near a furnace?
The simplest answer is yes. And when this happens, it can be a cause for concern. The smell is usually from the furnace, the vents, or your home’s heating and cooling system’s exhaust. Most of the time, these problems have easy fixes, but other times, the underlying cause may be a serious issue. So the first thing is to take extra precautions.
If the smell of gas is very strong throughout your home, or if there is a hissing sound coming from the pipes or the furnace, turn off the heater and get everyone out of the house. Then contact your local gas company for emergency response as this could indicate a gas leak that can potentially cause a fire outbreak or an explosion.
Although getting your family out of the house every time you detect a gas leak seems like a scary endeavor, it is important to remember that gas leaks are serious issues that should not be taken lightly. Sometimes, the smell of gas is specific to a place or time, and in such a case, there could be another explanation. Here are some of the most common scenarios and why they may cause your furnace to smell like gas.
If you have not started your furnace for a while, it’s normal to detect a faint smell like rotten eggs or a mild burning gas when you do turn it back on. The smell is usually a result of dust that collects on the furnace, and when you turn it on for the first time in a long time, the dust is burned off.
If dust is the culprit, then there is no need for concern. The dust will burn off, and the smell will disappear after a short time. But as a precaution, it is important to keep the ducts cleaned regularly. You don’t have to wait until you notice dirt on your furnace before having it cleaned.
Sometimes, the issue has to do with the gas blowing black air into the house through the windows or doors and other openings after being expelled by the exhaust pipe. This problem is of no major concern as it is normal to smell gas from the exhaust pipe since it functions by getting rid of the used fuel, or gas that hasn’t been properly utilized by the system. This is typically how your furnace should work.
The simplest solution to the gas smell in this situation simply involves having the doors or windows closed when the air is flowing in a specific direction and when the heating system is turned on.
An Outdoor Culprit
The trash or the compost heap in your backyard may also emanate a rotten egg smell that can be mistaken for natural gas. The same can happen if you also have a propane grill close to the house. The propane tank could have an undetected leak.
As a solution, first, ensure that the smell is not from your furnace. Once you rule that out, try to determine whether it is the trash or compost pile in your backyard or if it is your propane tank. If the problem is the latter, contact the relevant authorities for a fix. It is also recommended that your compost should be kept in a less obtrusive space and far from your house.
A gas leak is as serious as they come. If the smell comes from the vents and is perpetually present in your home, if there is a whistling sound near your furnace, then the problem could be a gas leak. Further confirmation to a gas leak is a carbon monoxide detector that goes off.
Gas leaks are extremely dangerous and require immediate professional intervention. Naturally, the gas is combustible, and that is bad enough, but it can also emit carbon monoxide, which is equally deadly. Carbon monoxide is odorless and can be easily inhaled without one knowing it. In high amounts, it can cause asphyxiation because of the red blood cell’s hampered ability to transport oxygen. Although it is often noticed when it is too late, the symptoms include drowsiness and a throbbing headache.
Gas leaks are also massive fire risks. Unless the ventilation in your home is really good, the natural gas, which is lighter than air, will spread everywhere, and it will only take a spark for a fire or an explosion to occur.
Take Preventative Measures
One of the best ways to prevent a life-threatening gas leak is to have your furnace inspected twice a year, once before winter and once before you turn it off during summer. Enlist the help of an HVAC professional to clean the furnace and run some diagnostic tests.
It doesn’t matter whether you have a natural gas furnace or a propane furnace; you must purchase a carbon monoxide detector. These detectors are inexpensive and can potentially save your life. After installing the carbon monoxide detector, if it goes off, make sure to investigate the cause. It could be a sign that there is a gas leak in your home. Don’t confuse the beeping with the sounds the detector makes when the battery is low – one beep now and then.
What to Do If You Detect a Gas Leak at Home
Here are precautionary steps to take when you notice a gas leak in your home:
- Do not light matches, lighters, or any other source of fire.
- Do not turn on any electrical appliances or devices that could initiate a spark, including the furnace itself.
- If possible, turn off the gas source from the main control valve.
- Evacuate your home and immediately call the fire department from a safe distance.
Reach Out to Bardi for Emergency Services and Maintenance
If you notice a rotten egg smell or a gas smell in your home, and you are unsure of what to do, or if you simply want to schedule a maintenance service for your heating system, reach out to Bardi today. We specialize in a variety of plumbing, heating, and air conditioning needs for customers in Alpharetta, Atlanta, Buckhead, Duluth, Kennesaw, Marietta, Peachtree Corners, Roswell, and surrounding areas. Our team of experts is always here to help ensure you stay safe in your home. If you have questions about your furnace leaking gas, we will help you diagnose, find a solution, and help you design a preventative maintenance plan that helps prevent gas leaks. Call us today!