In most instances, gas appliances, gas heating systems and gas hot water systems are very safe. Modern appliances include safety features and automatic shut-off precautions that make them easy and safe to use. Like anything, though, gas systems and appliances must be used properly and should be checked and maintained regularly.

Sometimes there are circumstances beyond your control that may lead to a gas leak. It’s important to know what to do when that happens and how to recognise a gas leak.

How to detect a gas leak?

1) Strong sulphur smell

One of the obvious signs of a gas leak is a strong smell in or around your home. On its own, natural gas is odourless. It is mixed with a strong smelling sulphur compound before it is distributed to homes. If there is a leak, you will smell the sulphur, which is similar to a “rotten egg” smell.

2) Unusual hissing or humming sounds

If you notice any hissing sounds, there may be gas escaping from the gas lines. This shouldn’t be happening. Don’t try to patch up the gas line yourself.

3) Dead plants

If you’ve been tending carefully to your garden but still notice dying plants or grass, this may be a sign of a gas leak. There may be a leak in the underground gas lines that run through or near your garden. This will affect the nutrients in the soil, therefore affecting the health of your plants.

4) Feeling unwell

Do you experience any unexplained headaches, nausea, dizziness, drowsiness or breathing difficulties when you’re at home? We don’t claim to provide medical advice, and we always advise that you speak to your doctor. But along with your doctor’s recommendations, we suggest you also talk to a plumber or gas fitter to determine if there is a gas leak to blame.

5) Higher than normal gas bill

If you notice an unexplained increase in your gas bill, it may be a sign of a gas leak. If you’re not home for a short period of time but still see gas usage charges on your bill, there may be gas leaking from a pipe outside that you are unable to smell.

What should you do if there is a gas leak?

If you detect a rotten egg or sulphur smell in your home, try to identify whether a gas appliance has been left on. Has the gas hob or oven been left on? Is there a gas heater running? Is there a gas fireplace running?

When used properly, these appliances should not create a lasting sulphur smell. You may detect a lingering gas smell, however, if you’ve left them on. Perhaps you thought you turned the hob all the way off, but it’s still on low heat, still emitting gas.

Keep all forms of fire and flame away from a gas appliance or a suspected gas leak. Don’t smoke, vape or use a lighter where gas is turned on.

If you know where the gas shut-off valve is and can access it easily, turn the gas off. Open windows and doors to circulate fresh air.

If you can’t identify a gas appliance that has been left on, get as far away from the smell or suspected leak as possible and call Fire and Emergency on 111. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

If there is a strong gas smell outside, there may be a ruptured gas line somewhere. Again, avoid smoking or vaping nearby, move away from the smell, and call 111.

Key things to avoid if you suspect a gas leak:

  • Do not smoke, vape or have an open flame in the area where you smell gas
  • Do not start your car anywhere near the gas leak
  • Do not turn on any electrical switches, including an electric garage door opener
  • Do not use your mobile phone in the area of a suspected gas leak

Most importantly, don’t try to fix a gas leak yourself

Only a certified gas fitter can install, inspect and service gas appliances and a household gas system. Trying to do this yourself could have dangerous results.

The Sumich Plumbing & Drainage team are certified gas fitters and registered members of the New Zealand Plumbers, Drainlayers & Gasfitters Association. We have a team of emergency plumbers available 24/7 to help you – just call us on 0800 437 021.

What causes a gas leak?

Gas flows to your home through dedicated gas lines and connections. If a gas leak occurs, it will likely be because of:

A loose connection – gas might leak out from a point where pipes join together or where there are other loose connections or fittings

Old or corroded pipes – gas may leak from areas where there is rust or corrosion around old pipes and fittings

Faulty connection or installation – please don’t try to install or repair a gas appliance yourself. In New Zealand, all work on gas appliances must be performed by a certified gas fitter. This is not an area for DIY.

It’s best to call in the team at Sumich Plumbing & Drainage. We are certified gas fitters and registered members of the New Zealand Plumbers, Drainlayers & Gasfitters Association.