How should you react when you smell gas?


Pro tip: Don’t panic. If you smell gas in your home, it’s important to react quickly, calmly and decisively. A gas leak in your home may not necessarily be an emergency, and your reaction could prevent it from becoming one. In this article, we will tell you how to react if you smell gas and how to manage the issue.
Last updated: November 2022

Not only is natural gas highly flammable, it can also be damaging to our bodies when inhaled in excess. Knowing how to react when you smell gas could save your life! The natural gas that powers our homes is actually odourless. The smell comes from a harmless chemical called mercaptan. And while it is (quite deliberately) not the most pleasant smell in the world, that unpleasant aroma could save your life.

Here, we’ll look at how to react when you smell gas. But first we need to know…

How do you know if you’re smelling gas?

Even the cleanest and tidiest homes can develop strange smells from time to time. How do you know that you’re smelling natural gas, and not something unpleasant in your kitchen bin? The smell of the mercaptan that’s added to your gas is very distinctive. Many compare it to the “rotten egg” smell of sulphur.

What should you do when you smell a gas leak?

Natural gas is a combination of methane, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, helium and hydrogen sulphide. Its combustible nature makes it perfect for heating and cooking in the home. But it also makes it dangerous when it leaks.

When you smell gas:

  • Switch off the gas at the meter, if you are able.
  • Open all windows and doors to allow the gas to dissipate and prevent poisoning from inhalation.
  • Call the National Gas Emergency Service on 0800 111 999. It’s best to do this outside if calling on a mobile phone as there’s a very faint chance of gas ignition.
  • If you smell gas in your cellar or basement, wait outside your home for an engineer to arrive.

Who to call if it smells like gas?

When you smell gas, you should always call the National Gas Emergency Service number. This number, again, is 0800 111 999. It’s a free phone number and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

While it’s easy to remember, don’t rely on memory alone. Save it in your mobile phone and program it into your landline telephone if possible. It’s better to have it close to hand and never need it, than the other way around.

What shouldn’t you do?

Knowing what not to do in the event of a gas leak can be every bit as important as knowing what to do. As such, you should avoid any of the following if you smell gas in your home:

  • Do not go into the cellar or the basement of your home. The lack of ventilation could increase your inhalation risk.
  • Do not smoke or use any kind of naked flame when you smell gas.
  • Do not use any electrical appliances. Even a light switch turned on or off can ignite escaping gas.

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How to prevent a gas leak

Prevention is always the best cure. Internal gas leaks are most commonly caused by poorly fitted appliances, which is why it’s so important to ensure that your oven, boiler and other gas appliance services are fitted by a Gas Safe engineer. Click Here to find one near you.

It is a legal requirement for homes to have smoke detectors. However, you may also want to invest in a natural gas detector and a carbon monoxide detector. Both are relatively cheap, widely available and could save your life.

Be sure to install these in an open space like a hallway, and change the batteries every year.

How To React When You Smell Gas

Can a gas leak make you ill? What are the symptoms?

Natural gas can be poisonous when there is an abundance of it in the air we breathe. If you are in an enclosed space where there is leaking gas, it can result in a lack of oxygen and symptoms of hypoxia (oxygen starvation). These include:

  • Headaches
  • Decreased / blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • And, eventually, loss of consciousness

False alarms: What smells like a gas leak but isn’t?

There are other things around the home that can smell like a gas leak but are not. The most common of these is electrical problems. The smell that comes from an outlet when the plastic components behind the outlet burn is very similar to the smell of natural gas. If you notice this smell alongside warping and yellowing of the outlets, you may need to call out an electrician to take a look.

Looking to switch gas supplier? We’re here to help!

Your choice in energy supplier can not only save you money on your gas, they can also help to keep your home safe. Some suppliers include things like free boiler servicing in their tariffs, so you can enjoy great savings and the peace of mind that comes with a gas-safe home.

Not only can we scour the market to find you the best deals, we can manage your switch from end-to-end to ensure that you get great value without the hassle that comes with checking the market for yourself.

Want to know more?

Call us today on 0330 818 6223. We’re available from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm

Would you like to know more about energy management? Great! Check out these related articles.

  1. Landlord energy efficiency
  2. How to change name on utility bills
  3. Utility Bills Explained
  4. National Grid Gas connection

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Is there a device to detect gas leaks?

The human nose is usually a reliable detector of gas leaks. However, there are also natural gas detectors widely available in DIY shops as well as places like Argos and Amazon. You can either install a fixed detector in your home or use a portable detector to trace leaks to their source.

Is it okay to smell gas from the oven?

Once you turn your oven on, it’s normal to detect the smell of gas for a few seconds. Once the oven has ignited and the gas burned, the smell (and the gas) will usually dissipate.

Will a carbon monoxide detector detect a gas leak?

Carbon monoxide is a gas that is created when fuels (like natural gas) are burned in a space with insufficient oxygen. As such, a carbon monoxide detector will not detect a gas leak. You’ll need to invest in a gas leak detector.

How do I check for a gas leak? What does gas smell like?

The easiest way to check for a gas leak is to use a portable gas leak detector which can be used to trace a leak to its source. Alternatively, you can always follow your nose. If you’re in a well ventilated area, you should be getting enough oxygen for the gas not to be harmful. Natural gas has a smell similar to the sulphurous smell of rotten eggs. This is not an inherent trait of natural gas, however. It is created by adding the harmless chemical mercaptan. This is done to make the gas easier to detect.

Updated on 29 Jan, 2024

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