What to Do If Your House Smells Like Gas

technician with a detector checking for a leak

If you suddenly notice the distinct odor of rotten eggs or sulfur in your home, it could be a sign of a potentially dangerous gas leak. Knowing what to do if you suspect a gas leak in your home is critical for protecting yourself, your family, and your property.

In this article, we’ll walk through the specific steps to follow if you believe there’s a gas leak in your home. In addition, we’ll cover causes of gas leaks and preventative measures to take in order to avoid the issue completely. 

Table of Contents

How to Tell if You Have a Gas Leak

The most distinctive sign of a gas leak is the smell. Natural gas is odorless, but utility companies add a chemical called mercaptan to give it a strong, unpleasant odor similar to rotten eggs or sulfur. If you notice this smell in your home, it’s important that you act quickly.

Other signs of a potential gas leak include:

  • A hissing or blowing sound near gas lines or appliances
  • Unexplained dead or dying vegetation in areas near gas lines
  • Gas stove burners that are lit but not producing a flame
  • The distinct odor of gas or suspicion of a gas leak
  • Abnormally high, low, or absent flames in all gas appliances
  • Inability to shut off gas to an appliance or heating unit
  • Continuous water leakage from a gas heating unit or water heater
  • Unusual noises like roaring, hissing, or whistling coming from gas pipes
  • White haze, vaporous mist, or bubbles visible in stagnant water near gas lines
  • An unusual smell, distinct from natural gas, causing irritation to eyes, nose, and/or throat, or symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, such as headache, nausea, fatigue, confusion, and aggressive behavior

What You Should Do if You Have a Gas Leak

When it comes to a suspected gas leak, every second counts. To minimize the potential dangers, here are the steps you should take:

  1. Evacuate the Building

    If you suspect a gas leak, your top priority is to ensure the safety of everyone in the home. Immediately leave the house and make sure all other occupants evacuate as well. Do not turn any lights on or off, and do not use any electrical devices, as even a small spark could ignite the gas and cause an explosion.
  2. Do Not Search for the Leak

    Do not attempt to locate the source of the gas leak yourself, particularly if the smell is strong. Leave this to the professionals.
  3. Ventilate the House if Possible

    If it is safe to do so and can be done very quickly, open windows and doors on your way out of the house to provide ventilation and help dissipate the gas.
  4. Call for Help from Outside the House

    Once you are outside and at a safe distance from the house, call 1-800-233-5325 or 911 to report the suspected leak, providing the address, location of the gas meter, and a description of the situation. Do not make this call from inside the house. Follow any additional instructions provided by the emergency operator.
  5. Turn Off the Gas Supply if You Know How

    If you know where your home’s gas meter is located and how to turn off the gas supply, do so once you are outside the house.
  6. Wait for the Professionals

    Wait for the gas company or emergency responders to arrive. Do not re-enter your home until they have confirmed it is safe to do so.

In a gas leak emergency, there’s no room for second-guessing or taking chances. The moment you think there might be a leak, it’s crucial to treat the situation with the utmost seriousness. Your top priority should always be to err on the side of caution and put safety first. 

Causes of Gas Leaks

Gas leaks in homes can stem from various sources. Understanding the potential sources of gas leaks can aid in prevention and prompt identification in an emergency situation. Some of the most common causes include:

Faulty Appliances

Aging or poorly maintained gas appliances, such as stoves, heaters, and water heaters, can develop leaks over time. Regular inspections and servicing by a professional can help prevent these leaks.

Damaged Gas Lines

Gas lines, both inside and outside the home, can be damaged by corrosion, wear and tear, or physical damage. This can lead to leaks that may be difficult to detect without professional help.

Poor Installation or Maintenance

Improperly installed appliances or fittings can also lead to gas leaks. Additionally, a lack of regular professional inspections and maintenance can allow small leaks to go unnoticed and worsen over time.

Where the Smell Could Be Coming From

Gas leaks can originate from various locations within and around the home, including:

Kitchen Appliances

Gas stoves and ovens are among the most common sources of gas leaks in the home. A burner that is on but has no flame, or a pilot light that has gone out, can allow gas to escape.

Heating Systems

Furnaces, particularly those with cracked heat exchangers, can leak gas into your home. Regular inspections and servicing can help prevent these potential cause of leaks.

Water Heaters

Gas-powered water heaters can also develop leaks over time. A pilot light that won’t stay lit or the smell of gas near the unit can be signs of a leak.

Outside Sources

In some cases, the smell of gas may be coming from an outside source, such as a damaged gas line in your yard. If you smell gas outside, call the gas company immediately.

Preventing Gas Leaks

Proactive measures can significantly reduce the risk of gas leaks in the home. Here are some steps you can take to prevent gas leaks:

  • Scheduling regular professional maintenance and inspections for all gas appliances and lines.
  • Ensuring proper installation of gas appliances and lines by qualified professionals.
  • Installing gas leak detectors throughout the home and maintaining them according to manufacturer guidelines.
  • Familiarizing yourself with the location and operation of the main gas supply shut-off valve.


If you suspect a leak, don’t hesitate – get everyone out immediately and call for help from a safe location. Let the professionals handle the rest.

Of course, prevention is always better than cure. To minimize the risk of gas leaks in the first place, make sure to schedule regular inspections and maintenance for all your gas appliances and lines with qualified technicians. 

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Can you stay in a house with a gas leak?

No, you should never stay in a house with a gas leak. Even a small leak can quickly accumulate and create a dangerous, potentially explosive atmosphere. When you detect the smell of gas, evacuate the building immediately and call for professional help from a safe location outside. Do not re-enter the house until the leak has been repaired and the building has been thoroughly ventilated.

Can a slow gas leak make you sick?

Natural gas and propane are both toxic when inhaled in significant quantities. Exposure to low levels of gas over an extended period can cause symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, and difficulty breathing. In high concentrations, gas inhalation can lead to asphyxiation, unconsciousness, and even death. If you experience any of these symptoms and suspect a gas leak, leave the area immediately and seek medical attention.

How long can a gas leak go unnoticed?

A gas leak can go unnoticed for a considerable amount of time, depending on its location and severity. Small leaks in hidden areas, such as behind appliances or in wall cavities, may not be immediately apparent. 

However, even a small leak can gradually worsen and build up to dangerous levels. This is why it’s prudent to have regular inspections and maintenance performed by qualified professionals who can detect and repair leaks before they become a serious threat.

How long does it take for gas to air out of a house?

The time it takes for gas to air out of a house depends on several factors, including the size of the leak, the duration of the leak, and the ventilation in the building. In general, it’s best to allow at least an hour of ventilation after the leak has been repaired before re-entering the house. 

You should open all windows and doors in the house to promote air circulation and help dissipate any lingering gas. If the leak was severe or went unnoticed for an extended period, it may take longer to clear the air completely. Always follow the guidance of the gas company or emergency responders regarding when it is safe to return to the building.

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