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Rotten Egg Smell: Natural Gas Leak or Just a Fart?

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Jessica
02.20.12

Wake up and smell the rotten eggs. If a foul odor reminiscent of spoiled cabbage or rotten eggs is wafting through your home, you may have a natural gas leak. Leave the building as quickly as possible and call 911.

Natural gas is dangerous because it is very flammable and greatly increases the chance of fire. Since raw natural gas is odorless, gas companies manually add mercaptan, a sulfur-containing organic chemical. The unpleasant perfume, often described as rotten egg smell, is designed to alert you of a gas leak before the flammable gas leads to an explosion.

In addition to being an odorizing agent in natural gas, the human body produces mercaptan naturally during digestion of beer, garlic and some other foods. So, yes, farts and natural gas smells are one in the same. Rather than engaging in a “he who smelt it, dealt it” battle, better to leave the home. 

NATURAL GAS SAFETY: DO’S
  1. Every other year, have a qualified contractor inspect your furnace, vents, connections and chimneys for corrosion and blockages.

  2. Clean or replace your air filters in your heating system. For step-by-step instructions on changing your furnace filter, read our to-do: Replace Your 1-inch Pleated Air Filter.

  3. Regularly clean, or have your contractor clean, your chimney flues and appliance vents.

  4. Keep your gas cooktop clean. For step-by-step instructions on cleaning your cooktop, read our to-do: Clean Your Gas Cooktop.

  5. Be sure your gas range flame is blue not yellow. Pilot lights and burners with a steady blue flame are operating correctly.
NATURAL GAS SAFETY: DON’TS
  1. Your stove is not a space heater! Never use your oven or cooktop to heat a room.

  2. Don’t clutter your furnace or water heater. Keep the area within three feet of the heater free from litter.

  3. Never sleep in a room with an unvented gas or kerosene heater. If you use a gas space heater, be sure it’s vented to the outside.

  4. Don’t let your gas meter get caked with debris, snow or ice. Your gas meter is usually located on the side of your home. Check it regularly to be sure it’s free from obstructions at all times.

  5. Don’t try to DIY a gas appliance. If you need one moved or installed, or you want to change the connector in any way, call a professional.
Because of the rank aroma, natural gas is relatively safe. In the United States, there are more than 60 million natural gas users, and last year there were only 20 natural gas-related deaths. Even with the built-in smell alarm, it’s important to know the “Do’s” and “Don’ts” of natural gas to keep your family harm-free.

 

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