When compared to many other home heating options, propane is a relatively safe and efficient fuel source. However, even with the modern safety measures that have been put in place, it is important to know how to handle a propane leak.
Do you know what propane smells like? If you think you smell gas, do you know what to do next? Propane has many safety features, i.e. it is non-toxic, it will not ignite unless source is 920°F, and it is not harmful to soil or groundwater. However, propane is a flammable gas, so even a small spark can cause it to ignite, leading to property damage or worse. A propane smell, either in the home or outside, is something to be taken very seriously. Therefore, you need to be aware of how to safely use propane.
Recognizing the Smell of Propane
Propane has a strong unpleasant smell like rotten eggs, a skunk’s spray, or a dead animal. Propane manufacturers add the smell deliberately to help alert customers to propane leaks, which can create a safety hazard. Always take action if you think you smell this foul odor.
Make sure what you are smelling is propane and not from another source, such as garbage, sewage, skunk spray or a dead animal.
A faint propane smell may not be cause for alarm. It’s normal for a propane odor to linger when lighting a stove, or if the pilot light in a gas fireplace, hot water heater or other appliance goes out.
While any potential leak should be treated seriously, be especially careful if the smell is particularly intense, if it won’t go away or if it is accompanied by a hissing sound.
If You Smell Gas…
- No flames or sparks! Immediately put out all smoking materials and other open flames. Avoid the use of anything that can create a spark or electrical charge — this includes not just lighters and open flames but also mechanical devices such as rotary telephones, light switches, doorbells and thermostats. Flames or sparks from these sources can trigger an explosion or a fire.
- Leave the area immediately! If you smell propane inside, get yourself and your family out of the home as quickly as possible.
- If you smell gas outdoors, leave the area with a similar degree of caution. Be aware that vehicles or electrical equipment can pose a safety risk. Walk to a safe distance, if possible, and don’t attempt to correct or pinpoint the issue yourself.
- Shut off the gas. Turn off the main gas supply valve on your propane tank if it is safe to do so. To close the valve, turn it to the right (clockwise).
- Report the leak. From a neighbor’s home or other nearby building away from the gas leak, call your propane retailer right away. If you can’t reach your propane retailer, call 911 or your local fire department.
- Do not return to the building or area until your propane retailer, emergency responder, or qualified service technician determines that it is safe to do so.
- Get your system checked. Before you attempt to use any of your propane appliances, your propane retailer or a qualified service technician must check your entire system to ensure that it is leak-free.
If You Detect a Gas Leak…
- Immediately evacuate everyone from the house and call your local propane provider or the fire department from a neighbor’s telephone.
- Learn what propane smells like. Propane retailers print scratch-and-sniff pamphlets to help your family recognize its distinctive odor.
- Call 811 before you dig. Know where gas lines are located, so you won’t damage them when digging or working in the yard.
- Change or clean furnace filters regularly as recommended by the manufacturer.
- Don’t store cleaning fluids, oil-soaked rags, gasoline, or other flammable liquids near a gas-burning appliance, where vapors could be ignited by the pilot light.
Can You Smell It?
It may be hard for some people to smell propane for the following reasons:
- They have a cold, allergies, sinus congestion, or another medical condition.
- Their sense of smell is reduced due to use of tobacco, alcohol, or drugs.
- Tobacco smoke, cooking odors and other strong odors can mask the smell of propane.
- As people age, their sense of smell can become less sensitive.
- IF the smell of propane is present in the air over a period of time, “odor fatigue” can occur. The nose “gets tired” and a person no longer smells the propane odor.
- The propane smell may be in a location (basement or attic) where it is not detected by people in other areas of the building.
- Odor loss can occur – an unintended reduction in the concentration of the odor of propane.
If you are concerned that you or others in your home may have difficulty smelling propane, consider buying one or more propane gas detectors. Foster Fuels can help you ensure that you are protected with safe delivery and propane systems which are proven to be effective for your home needs.
Stay Safe and Know the Risks
There’s no question that propane fumes are dangerous. However, serious leaks are rare and are typically only brought on by long-term neglect of your tank and heating system. The best way to avoid an issue is to invest in regular maintenance from a qualified professional.
To ensure everyone’s safety, propane leaks must be handled by a professional. One call to Foster Fuels is all it takes to have an experienced technician come and assess the issue. We’re available around the clock to provide service to any customer.
Don’t wait until you smell leaking propane in your home to call Foster Fuels — get in touch today and have one of our team members put together a maintenance schedule that keeps you safe all year round.
Looking for a fun way to teach your children about propane safety? Check out PropaneKids.com—it’s a fun, interactive website that features games and activities that teach children how to adopt good propane safety habits in and around the home. The site even has a resources section for parents and educators to download activities, like home safety inspection checklists, safety lesson plans, and coloring pages, to reinforce good safety habits for the whole family!
Post updated on January 14th, 2019