Natural gas is an important commodity in today’s society and is regularly used both at home and by businesses for heating and other appliances. With the many advantages and comforts natural gas brings, as well as being relatively safe, there are still potential hazards that threaten to occur when the gas’s pipelines are not properly maintained or neglected. Since these lines are typically underground or hidden, it is difficult to detect a leaking or damaged pipeline immediately without conducting frequent, and proper, inspections. Allowing a pipeline to leak for even a short amount of time can be both costly, and sometimes even deadly.
Common risks businesses and home-owners face with poorly maintained gas lines:
Natural gas is highly flammable and can cause significant property damage and injury if accidentally ignited. Not detecting a leak early on leaves opportunity for the gas to build up in contained areas. The longer the gas is allowed to leak out the greater the resulting explosion will be if the gas is ignited. Installing detectors for explosive gases can help in early detection of indoor leaks.
- Higher Gas Line Bills
Leaking gas lines not only lead to wasted resources, but a more costly gas bill as well. Gas lines are metered, so you will be billed for both gas you use, as well as the leaking gas. Receiving an unusually high gas bill could be a sign of a gas leak.
- Inhalation of Poisonous Gases
Gas lines leak poisonous gases such as carbon monoxide that can cause harm and even death in a high enough concentration. Again, detectors are important for alerting you when these gases become heavily concentrated. If a detector is not installed, gas pipelines also have a gas called mercaptan that gives off an odor to identify a gas leak. This odor is very noticeable and smells similar to rotten eggs.
Even though there are ways to detect a leak in the pipelines, the most important thing is to prevent these leaks before they happen by having a professional check the pipelines for weaknesses that could eventually result in a break. Prevention is key to avoiding mishaps in the future, and although inspections can be costly, playing it safe is the better option than risking a malfunction that bears serious consequences and even greater costs.
How Often Should I Have My Gas Lines Inspected?
Gas lines should be inspected annually. This allows troublesome signs such as corrosion or bad fitting in the pipelines to be spotted and dealt with before they become a problem. Faulty or older appliances can also result in gas leaks and should be inspected on a regular basis according the manufacturer’s instructions for the appliance.
Who is Qualified to Inspect My Gas Lines?
Certified plumbing and heating contractors have the necessary skills and qualifications to inspect and repair your gas lines. Professionals are required to have their gas piping certifications renewed annually, so be sure that your professional has a valid, renewed certification when they are performing maintenance and inspection for your home or business.
What Should I Do If I Suspect a Gas Leak?
If you suspect there is a gas leak, leave the building or area immediately and call your gas company’s emergency hotline. Do not attempt to call from a phone line within the building or turn on or off any electrical appliances. Anything that can produce a potential spark runs the potential for igniting the leaking gas and causing an explosion. Do not attempt to locate the source of the leak, leave that to the professionals as seeking out the source on your own only puts you in danger of the poisonous gases.
Although gas leak related accidents are rare, most occur due to a lack of proper maintenance given to their gas lines. Making sure your pipes are regularly inspected will help in identifying and preventing unnecessary costs and damages that may arise from a damaged pipeline. If a leak does manage to occur, it is important to leave the area immediately and evacuate anyone else in the area or building. By keeping your gas lines well maintained, you are not only saving yourself from unnecessary costs, but also ensuring a safe environment in your home or business.
The author, Shelby Lowe, blogs about safety related topics for both residences and businesses. For companies looking to improve their safety programs to make sure things like gas line inspections are not overlooked she highly recommends turning to eCompliance.com.