March 16, 2021

You’re in the basement of your Syracuse home to put some items in storage. On the way, you pass by your furnace and smell the unmistakable odor of natural gas. If you’re not properly prepared, this situation could be cause for panic. Fortunately, not every natural gas release is a major emergency. At Holbrook Heating & Air Conditioning, we want you to be properly prepared so that you know how to respond when you smell natural gas in your home, whether it’s a small release or a major leak.

What Is Natural Gas?

Natural gas is a colorless and odorless gas that is made up mostly of methane. It is pumped from underground deposits and then routed to various energy providers using large gas pipelines. These pipelines lead to smaller service lines in your neighborhood that eventually branch off to the gas lines for individual homes. Natural gas is one of the cleanest-burning options available among fossil fuels, making it desirable for both individuals and corporations alike.

Why Is It Harmful?

Since natural gas consists largely of methane, it is not conducive to organisms that rely on oxygen. If you’re in an area that has a high concentration of natural gas, the methane will displace the oxygen in your lungs and cause major problems. Among other symptoms, you may experience severe headaches, memory loss, loss of consciousness, and death. That’s why Holbrook Heating & Air Conditioning urges you to act quickly whenever you smell natural gas in your home. You need to be able to figure out whether it’s a negligible release of gas that’s not harmful or if it’s a major leak that requires you to evacuate your home.

Normal Natural Gas Release

The words “normal” and “natural gas release” seem as though they shouldn’t belong in the same phrase. The fact is, though, that many gas furnaces release small amounts of natural gas when they first start up. This occurs when the pilot light doesn’t light precisely when it should. Before the pilot light ignites the gas in the burner, the gas can escape, creating a small gas smell in the process.

Fortunately, your furnace is equipped with a device called a draft inducer. This device pulls air through the flue to remove harmful substances from your home. Typically, the draft inducer will pull the excess gas out of your home, meaning that the smell of natural gas will only last a short while. Therefore, if the smell of gas is highly localized and dissipates over time, you don’t have anything to worry about. However, you can mention this occurrence to technicians from Holbrook Heating & Air Conditioning the next time they come to your home to perform maintenance. In this way, they can better evaluate your furnace.

Signs of a Major Problem

Sometimes, your furnace will experience a major breakdown that could cause a significant gas leak in your home. If your furnace is older, some of its vital safety features could wear out to the point that the burner can release gas without igniting for a long time. You could also suffer from a broken draft inducer or even a cracked gas line. When you start smelling gas in your home beyond where the furnace is located, you’ll want to evacuate quickly. A large gas release could cause gas poisoning or could lead to an explosion with potentially devastating consequences.

Fresh Air Is Vital

If you and your loved ones have been exposed to high concentrations of natural gas, fresh air is absolutely vital. Getting affected individuals outside to help increase the level of oxygen in their lungs is the best thing you can do while you wait for help to arrive. It’s also important that you get any pets out of your home and to fresh air as quickly as possible. Make sure to call your local emergency services so that firefighters can secure your home and everyone in your family can be evaluated to ensure that no permanent damage has occurred.

Other Potential Sources of a Gas Leak

When you smell natural gas in your utility area, Holbrook Heating & Air Conditioning wants you to know that you need to check all of your gas appliances, not just your furnace. Another common culprit of small natural gas releases is a gas water heater. Since a water heater relies on a natural draft in the flue, any blockage in the flue can limit or prevent proper ventilation. Therefore, it’s important to have Holbrook Heating & Air Conditioning check your flue from time to time to ensure that there is no debris in the flue that could lead to a potential gas release in your home.

Additional Dangers Associated With a Gas Furnace

While gas furnaces typically provide safe and reliable heat, it’s important to be aware of all the potential dangers associated with gas furnaces so that you can take steps to protect yourself and your family. A carbon monoxide release is one of the most common risks associated with a gas furnace. This typically occurs if your draft inducer isn’t working correctly or when your flue is obstructed.

Carbon monoxide can cause many of the same symptoms as natural gas if inhaled by someone in your family. The problem with carbon monoxide is that it is entirely colorless, odorless, and tasteless, unlike natural gas that is treated with a chemical to give it a smell. The only reliable way to detect carbon monoxide is with a carbon monoxide detector. That’s why you need to have detectors on every floor of your home and close to every bedroom.

Taking Care of Your Furnace

In general, you’ll avoid most of the risks associated with a gas furnace if you ensure that your furnace is properly maintained. As a homeowner, your main responsibility is to replace your air filter on a timely basis. It’s also important to listen for any unusual sounds coming from your furnace so that you can inform Holbrook Heating & Air Conditioning of any potential problems when a technician comes to your home for annual maintenance. To maintain peak performance, you’ll want to have your furnace cleaned and maintained at least once a year.

Taking Care of Your Family

Every member of your family should have the tools to be able to protect themselves in the event of a natural gas release. After all, you may not always be at home when a leak occurs. To properly equip your family, it’s important to formulate an evacuation plan and discuss that plan with your family. You’ll also want to practice the plan at least once a year so that it’s fresh in everyone’s mind. Even young children can understand the basic concepts of a safety plan so that they can act quickly in the event of an emergency.

A Partner in Your Family’s Safety

We take your safety seriously at Holbrook Heating & Air Conditioning. That’s why we work hard to provide excellent maintenance services for both your air conditioner and your furnace. We can also repair and replace your HVAC equipment to provide exceptional home comfort. Additionally, we provide commercial HVAC services for businesses throughout the greater Syracuse region. Serving customers for over 35 years, Holbrook Heating & Air Conditioning has the experience to take on any home comfort challenge. To learn more about safely using a gas furnace, contact us at Holbrook Heating & Air Conditioning in Jamesville, NY, today.

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