P.S.A. — Have Your Gas Lines Checked!
I want to give y’all a pretty serious public service announcement/reminder based on my own experience over the last couple of days. Long story short, Matt and I learned that we’ve had two ongoing and undetected gas leaks in our house, and we have no idea how long these gas leaks have been there. When I learned that we’ve had these gas leaks, it really freaked me out. I mean, I’m sure we’ve all seen videos of houses literally blowing up because of gas leaks, like this and this, and yet for some reason, having our gas lines checked on a regular basis is something that never crossed our minds.
Our gas leaks wouldn’t have even been detected at this point if not for the fact that the gas company has been working on our street for about the last four week replacing all of the gas lines and gas meters. It’s been a very extensive project, and has been kind of disruptive on our street for a while now, but obviously it’s very needed. The houses on this street were built in the late 40s and early 50s, and I’m assuming that all of the lines they’re replacing were original. So for about four weeks now, every house on our side of the street has had numerous large holes dug in the front yard. At one time, they had dug about three huge holes in our front yard, but now we’re just down to this one…
And they’re all about 5 to 6 feet deep, with shiny new gas lines towards the bottom of the holes and trenches.
Anyway, this has been going on for weeks, as I said, and they’re finally finishing up by replacing the actual meters on all of the houses. Ours got replaced on Tuesday. I was working on the bathroom, and they were just outside the front window (in the home gym) replacing our meter. It was a very loud process, as they were banging on pipes and making all kinds of noise.
I noticed that the noise stopped right around 5:00pm, so I took a break from my work to walk outside, and sure enough, they had finished up the installation of our new meter. I have no idea why this one is so far away from the house (the old one was right up against the house), but I’m guessing there’s a reason for it.
Anyway, I didn’t think much of it. I just went back to the bathroom and continued my work, and I worked pretty late that night.
On Wednesday morning, I headed into the kitchen to make some food for Matt before I headed out to lunch with my mom. I tried turning on the burner, and nothing happened. It didn’t light, and I didn’t smell any gas at all. I was so frustrated, so I headed out to look at the new meter (as if I knew what I was doing or what I was looking for 😀 ), and as I opened the front door, I noticed a yellow door tag hanging on the door.
Evidently the Atmos Energy guy came buy to do a relight on Tuesday evening (i.e., to turn the gas back on, relight any pilot lights, and make sure our gas appliances were working properly), but I didn’t hear him when he knocked on the door because I was working in the bathroom with the home gym door closed and my earbuds in my ears.
So I called Atmos Energy to have someone come back out, but I was going to be in and out throughout the day on Wednesday, so they wouldn’t schedule it. Yesterday (Thursday) I had no plans until the evening, so I called again to see if they would send someone out. He got here within the hour, and I was expecting it to be about a ten minute job where he turns the gas on at the meter, then comes in and makes sure the stove is working, and then relights the pilot light on the hot water heater, and that’s it.
Well, that’s not what happened. Before they can do a relight, they have to make sure that there are no leaks in any of the gas pipes in the home. And if any leaks are detected, they can’t turn the gas on to the house. And sure enough, we had a leak.
The way that they check for leaks is pretty quick and straightforward, which means that there’s no excuse for us not to have this done regularly from now on. In the picture below, you can see our outdoor gas meter. It has two pipes going out of it. The pipe on the left does a loop up and then goes down into the ground and out to the street. That’s the pipe through which the gas is delivered to our house. Then the gas goes through the meter and into the pipe on the right where it goes into the gas lines under the house and to our appliances (stove and hot water heater).
In order to test the gas lines in the house, they unscrew the connector where the gas pipe on the right (the one that goes into the house) is connected to the meter, and then move the meter out of the way a bit.
And then they have a gauge that they attach to that pipe that goes into the house. The gauge has a little manual air pump on it (the gauge and air pump reminded me of the gauge and air pump that are on a manual blood pressure cuff), and they use that little pump to pump air into the pipes until the gauge shows a certain pressure, and then they wait about 15 minutes to see if it will hold that pressure.
Obviously, if it holds the pressure, you’re good to go and the gas can be turned back on. If it doesn’t hold the pressure, you have a gas leak somewhere and they can’t turn the gas back on.
Well, we had a gas leak, and it was pretty significant. So that meant that I had to call a plumber, and because this has been a pretty extensive project on our street for about four weeks now, there are about two plumbing companies that they’ve contracted with, and who were already on our street working on other houses. So fortunately, they were able to come pretty quickly and get the leak taken care of.
Our leak ended up being in the pipe that used to deliver gas to the original hot water heater, which was located in the far right corner of the garage (which is now my studio). It’s a pipe that’s no longer used, so they just crawled under the house, cut that line, and capped it.
I was so thankful that they were able to find it quickly and easily, but also a little freaked out. If I remember correctly, we had that hot water heater removed before we even moved into this house (or maybe very soon after), and we’ve been here 8.5 years. So who even knows how long it’s been leaking? Because of where it was located, and because it was under the house, it’s not something that we would be able to smell. If you have a gas leak actually inside your house, you’ll smell it. If I accidentally lean on a knob on my stove and turn on the gas (which I’ve done a few times), I smell it within a few seconds. But there’s just no way we would have smelled this leak because of its location.
Anyway, they got that fixed, and I called the Atmos Energy guy back out, and he did his gauge test again. This time, his gauge showed that we have a very small and slow leak somewhere. Ugh! So frustrating! The good thing is that he was able to locate it pretty quickly. The bad thing is that it was leaking out of a connector on our hot water heater. He tried tightening the connection to see if it was just loose, but it wouldn’t tighten. So that just means that we have a faulty connector.
I’m back there all the time! Our hot water heater is right next to the washer and dryer in the sunroom. How in the world have I never smelled that gas leak?
He did go ahead and turn the gas back on to our house AFTER making sure that the valve to our hot water heater was turned off. He told me that I could call the plumber back to replace that hose/connector for me, or that I could replace it myself. He showed me how to do it (super simple, like replacing a connector hose for water under your bathroom sink) and then how to test for leaks after it’s connected by spraying soapy water on the connection and looking for bubbles.
That will obviously be my top priority today. My poor kitchen is a mess after three days with no hot water and no way to wash dishes. 😀
But all of this has been a real wake up call for me. There are plenty of things that we as homeowners put off, but making sure the gas pipes are in proper working order, and that there are no leaks, shouldn’t ever be one of those things. That’s way too serious of a thing to neglect, and the consequences of neglecting gas pipe maintenance could literally be a matter of life and death.
It’s a mistake we won’t make anymore. Of that, I can be sure. And if you have gas in your home, I really want to encourage you to have yours checked on a regular basis. The test itself is very quick and easy, so if all is well, then you’d just be paying for the service fee for your plumber. And if they detect a problem, the cost of having it fixed is well worth the price because it could literally save the lives of you and your family members. Don’t put it off!
Addicted 2 Decorating is where I share my DIY and decorating journey as I remodel and decorate the 1948 fixer upper that my husband, Matt, and I bought in 2013. Matt has M.S. and is unable to do physical work, so I do the majority of the work on the house by myself. You can learn more about me here.
You can also use a handheld combustible gas detector when the situation doesn’t lend itself to bubbles.
We have a predecessor to this one and have found it very useful. The adjustable sensitivity and flexible wand help with finding leaks in tight spaces. https://pksafety.com/uei-test-instruments-combustible-gas-leak-detector-cd100a
I love cooking with gas, but it weirds me out. (A gas oven blew out and singed me pretty badly years ago, so I’m sure that’s part of it too.)
Thanks for the PSA!
Also……don’t assume this only happens in older houses. We built a brand new house in Texas in 1991. Our first house with natural gas……about 6 months in I smelled a very faint gas smell. Called out Atmos and sure enough they did the
Liquid soap test and it was a slight leak at the meter. This can happen to any age house. Thank you for reminding people about having their lines checked.
so glad they were found! Our neighbors’ house years ago blew up due to a leak that took out the house next to them on the other side but blew windows out of our house. Luckily no one was home so no injuries or deaths. After that we had our lines checked once a year. Now I have all electricity and even though I miss cooking with gas, I have to have elec as I am on oxygen. I am glad you are both safe and it was caught in time. Bet your gas bill goes down significantly as well.
How scary! So glad you were given a new meter, or else who knows what would have happened! We are on the end of the gas line in our subdivision, and the gas company comes every month to check the pressure on our lines….wonder if he can also check inside the house? We’ll have to ask him next time he comes. IDK exactly how he checks the pressure, but he sits in his truck for about 10 mins. after he has done something at our meter, then goes back to the meter. I assume he has some kind of device that does the measuring. My husband has spoken to him several times, so I guess he knows. I love having gas for water and cooking, but at the same time, I’m scared of it too. There have been several explosions recently in our news, and most were suspected to be faulty water heaters. I recall one last year where an elderly man was killed when he went to investigate a gas odor instead of leaving the house and calling 911!!! Never hang around if you smell gas. Leave IMMEDIATELY, and call 911 away from the house!
Thank you for posting this, Kristi. We don’t have gas, but our daughter does, so I sent her your link.
2022 must be the year for utility repairs. Our neighborhood was “attacked” by AT&T, beginning in February, of all months! Had to wait for the ice to melt. The snow to melt. To stop raining. Slightly warmer temperatures. In our section of the neighborhood, ours (smack dab in the middle) was the first to process. We had more debris and holes than anyone else; had to wait the longest to get things moving. FINALLY, our yard (that we leveled out last year!) was complete and AT&T moved on to the rest of the cul-de-sac. But holy cow, that was annoying! I feel your pain.
Is anyone else enduring utility repairs in their neighborhoods?
We had the same experience with AT&T last summer we just finished leveling our yard and set up an above ground pool. We measured the correct distance so we wouldn’t be on the easement and they tunneled directly under my pool, I was livid, I argued with the supervisor but the damage was already done. My pool now is lower on that end and I have a utility box in my yard.
Besides the monetary savings, have you ever just not felt right? You’ve been breathing that gas since moving into your house. Ahh, an explosion! I was driving Boulder Canyon to work one morning when the vehicle about 1/2 mile ahead of me suddenly swerved. I thought a deer. Then I saw parts of the restaurant flying high into the air. Cute little restaurant that I passed every day..spectacular is too tame a word. It nearly blew that vehicle off the road. Thank goodness it was so early, no one there yet.
I’m total electric, but I used to love cooking on gas! So happy they found your problems before anything happened.
That whole scary part of gas is why I am afraid to switch over from electric for some of our stuff in the house we are planning to downsize to…I already had one scare with it in NY, and although it would help the high Florida electric bill, I just don’t feel as safe. In NY, we had a gas furnace in a house I bought. All was well until one day I came home from work for lunch and I smelled something burning. Went all over the house, and eventually to the cellar, and our furnace was burning through the cabinet because there was a pipe that had burned through…letting Carbon monoxide escape into the forced air heat. My son’s room was right above, and he had been having headaches and not feeling well! Lots of questions answered that day, but scared me forever. The fire was right on the other side of that thin cabinet. I smelled the paint burning off. Really, in our part of Florida we go years without putting any heat on, so we are probably best just sticking with the electric. Kristi, I am so glad you found all of this now before any tragedy…scary to even think about!
Wow! I had no idea this could be an issue! Thanks for this important heads up. Just contacted my gas company to schedule a check.
Thanks for your story Kristi. We have gas and now I am aware of potential dangers. I always thought you could smell a gas leak but apparently not.
Thank goodness you had it discovered/fixed quickly. I was used to checking my bill to see if my usage would go up over and above seasonal changes.
Anyhow, thanks for writing a much needed post on this, the non glam side of homeownership. Every one should know where/how water shut off is, gas and main breaker switch is.
When I was a kid we had gas and had to have it fixed. They figured it had been leaking for years. I had headache and so many other health problems that just vanished after the leak was fixed. I hope that it hasn’t effected Matt and you. If so I hope you are both much healthier after this. It was a God send to me.
Kristi Linauer….. THANK YOU! Hadn’t had my gas checked in a long time. Results of LP Gas check… 1) replacing input valve on house… it was from 1969, house was built in 1989. Wasn’t even code when installed. And 2) more importantly… the valve on gas tank would not completely shut off and the tank was starting to show rust. Not leaking, nor in the house but if I ever had a fire, went to the tank to shut off gas, a flame feeding source I wouldn’t have been able to do so.
New valve on house already installed. New tank arriving next week.
All better. Thanks for the safety reminder. It’s just one of those things that can fly under our reminder.