gas meter and rusty gas pipe

Gas Leak Detection and Repair

work44Don’t Ignore A Gas Leak

Most everyone takes a gas leak seriously, and for good reason. Gas leaks can be unhealthy, causing sickness or headaches, or can be very hazardous, including the possibility of explosion or death. That’s why if you have a gas leak you want to professionally repair or control it as soon as possible. Proactive Plumbing can find a gas leak and repair it, usually the same day.

If you have a major gas leak and you cannot shut off the gas supply yourself, call your gas supplier right away. If they cannot respond immediately or if the situation is endangering lives or property, call the fire department. Always use gas fuels responsibly; misuse can result in injury or death.

What causes a gas pipe to leak?

We usually find one of three reasons for a gas leak: improper installation, wrong material installed or corrosion of gas pipe material. Sometimes the trouble is as simple as tightening a joint at a fitting or gas connection adapter. Sometimes we find that the wrong material has been installed, for example, black iron gas pipe installed outdoors where galvanized gas pipe is the proper choice. Other times the process may be very involved including pipe tracing, leak detection, permitting, or inspection, and may require a day or more to provide the correct solution. No matter how little or how long it takes to make the repair, be sure it’s done right, safely, and to code.

How to stop a minor gas leak?

  1. Know where the main gas shut off valve is located.
    • For natural gas customers, this is usually at the gas meter location.
    • For propane (LP) customers, this is usually at the storage tank or at the building’s gas main riser pipe.
  2. Know where the appliance shut off valves are located.
    • Usually beside or behind the appliance.
    • Follow the gas pipe or flexible connector from the appliance to the shut off valve.
  3. Have tools to help close the main gas valve and appliance shut off valves, as needed. If the valve does not have a lever handle you will need a tool to operate the valve:
    • Gas shut off wrench
    • Long-handle groove-lock pliers (better leverage)
    • Medium-handle groove-lock pliers
    • Large adjustable wrench (most leverage)
    • Medium adjustable wrench
  4. Use care to close the valve; should be just a 1/4-turn to close.
    • Use good judgment about how to operate the valve.
    • Some valves open one way, and close in the reverse.
    • Some valves will turn 360 degrees — open, close, open, close.
    • Old valves can seize and handle stems can break — be careful.
    • If trying to close an appliance valve, but it’s stuck, go close the main valve instead.
    • If you can’t close the appliance or main gas valve yourself, go outside and look for a plumber or utility technician (you may already have one working in your neighborhood today.) Ask for help; usually a free service if already nearby. Otherwise, call the gas company and they should send out a technician right away.

How to test for a gas leak?

Leak Detection Fluid

The simplest way to test for a minor gas leak is to use a solution of leak detector fluid, specifically manufactured for gas leak detections. Don’t use dishwashing soap or any other chemical surface cleaners as the detergents in those products can have a corrosive effect on some pipe materials. Use the product as the directions indicate.

Some products have dobbers attached to the bottle lid, which you wipe over each visible joint, some products use a spray bottle to test hard to reach joints, and some contain high-visibility colorants to make gas leak observations easier to detect.

Electronic Gas Leak Detectors

These devices can range from $25 for basic battery-operated gas leak detectors available at retail hardware stores, to over $1,000 for multi-function, professional units intended for use by utilities or facility management entities. Basic units may not be sensitive enough to help locate a minute gas leak, and fresh batteries should be installed if the unit is stored for extended periods between use. Professional electronic gas leak detectors also need special care: batteries should be fully recharged or changed, most units should be acclimated to working area temperature for 15-30 minutes, units should be activated outdoors or in an area with fresh air, and probe sensors should not come into contact with contaminants such as leak detection fluid, pipe thread sealant, solvent vapors, saliva (yes, people test the probe with their breath sometimes), etc.

The Nose Knows — Really!

While the following comment is not recommended as a sole basis for finding a true gas pipe leak, especially a dangerous one, it’s often said that women have a better sense of smell than men, and there was a study to support it! Apparently women have on average 43% more brain cells than men in the olfactory bulb structure. So, when a lady says she smells a gas leak, you’d better get it checked out.

My Gas Got Locked Out, Now What Do I Do?

CALL US! We’re a licensed plumbing contractor with gas pipe repair experience. If you have the misfortune of reporting your gas leak to the utility company, getting your gas turned off and locked off for safety reasons, we’re very sorry to hear that. The road to repair may be longer than you expect.

The worst times to have a gas leak are often the most typical times they are discovered: nights, weekends and holidays. Usually this means that city building departments are closed, professional plumbing contractor suppliers are closed, and many small-sized plumbing businesses are closed, too. Proactive Plumbing Inc offers emergency plumbing service, including repairs for gas lockout, 24/7/365. We may not be able to secure a release on the same day as repair (due to permitting protocols), but we can get the ball rolling to restore your gas service as soon as possible.

In most communities served by a municipal or regional utility provider, the release of a gas lockout status requires:

  1. a gas repair permit,
  2. repair by a licensed plumber, gas fitter, or general contractor,
  3. testing the integrity of the entire system within a building at 10 PSI or greater (including removing all appliance valves and installing hard caps), or of the isolated branch or main gas line (if outside of a building),
  4. repairs inspected and approved by an official building inspector, AKA authority having jurisdiction (AHJ),
  5. call to utility for lockout release by official building inspector,
  6. reinstating connections to prepare for gas supply service to resume, and
  7. finally, removal of the lock and opening the main gas valve by the utility provider.

In rural communities served by propane (LP) suppliers, the experience can be a little friendlier. Usually it doesn’t include physical lockout, and instead the supplier technician either tags the main riser gas valve or closes off the propane tank valve—but sometimes they also have to lockout their tanks. In cases where they don’t physically lockout the system, the process is often like this:

  1. repair by a licensed plumber, gas fitter, or general contractor,
  2. testing the integrity of the entire system within a building at nominal service pressure (without removal of appliance shut off valves), or of the isolated branch or main gas line (if outside of a building),
  3. approval by the supplier technician, field supervisor, or building inspector, AKA authority having jurisdiction (AHJ),
  4. call to provider by contractor or owner to request restoration of service,
  5. reinstating connections and resuming gas supply service.

Be Safe. Let The Pros Do It.

When you need repair, replacement or installation for a gas leak, a gas appliance, or a new gas pipe don’t give in to low price gimmicks or minimizing of required skill by non-trade vendors. Experience installing gas piping properly and to code is well worth the peace of mind.

List of 5 Things You Shouldn’t Do With Gas

  1. Don’t play with gas — it’s dangerous …. could go BOOOM!
  2. Don’t install the wrong material — galvanized pipe outside, NO black iron pipe outside, NO CSST without proper training and tools.
  3. Don’t use gas pipe as a ground — most service lines to the meter and house are now plastic PE pipe, which does not provide an earth ground like systems in the past.
  4. Don’t hire unlicensed gas repair contractors — experience pays in more ways than one, hire qualified licensed contractors for important repairs and installations.
  5. Don’t ignore a gas leak — smelling gas and catching a leak early can be the difference between a $200 repair and a $5,000 replacement.

Think Proactive. Be Proactive.

Water Pressure

Pressure Reducing Valve

Do you think about the water pressure in the plumbing system of your residential home or commercial building? Are you worried that the pressure is too high, or complain that the flow looks or feels too low? In southern California most homeowners and businesses are feeling the effects of water consumption limits and restrictions due to ongoing drought conditions. Therefore it is especially important to actively monitor and repair these systems to reduce or prevent property damage caused by leaks and flooding.

Here are some important ways to understand and maintain the water pressure in your home or building.

  1. Learn the locations of all valves in your plumbing system, and know how to operate them.
    • Meter service valve,
    • House or building cold main valve,
    • Water heater cold supply valve,
    • Hose valves,
    • Emergency fixture stop valves.
  2. Know the location of the Pressure Reducing Valve (PRV, pressure regulator, or regulator.) This device functions to reduce the service line water pressure to a safe operating pressure within the building system.
  3. What is the age of the PRV?
    • Average useful service life is 5-10 years.
    • Most are only warranted for 1 year by the manufacturer.
  4. What is the water pressure before and after the pressure reducing valve.
    • The service line pressure before the PRV is usually greater than 50 PSI. If the service line pressure exceeds 80 PSI then most regional plumbing codes require a PRV to be installed to reduce pressure to a safe level for use in the home or building.
    • If the service line pressure does not exceed 80 PSI over a 24-hour period, most regional plumbing codes do not require a PRV to be installed.
    • If the system pressure, as measured after the PRV (such as a back hose bib or at the water heater drain valve), is greater than the maximum setting of the PRV, then a test for thermal expansion should be performed before deciding that the PRV is failed.
      • Quick explanation: increasing water temperature causes water to expand (“thermal expansion”); heating water in a closed system causes pressure increase; pressure increase can stress the plumbing system and eventually cause premature failure.
    • If the system pressure, as measured after the PRV, is greater than the maximum setting of the installed PRV and thermal expansion is not a contributing factor, then the PRV may not be doing a good job anymore; the diaphragm may be worn out or other parts may be fouled with mineral buildup.
    • Most regional plumbing codes now require a thermal expansion tank to be installed when a system has a water heater installed downstream of the PRV.
      • Where a PRV is not already installed, the thermal expansion tank is usually not required. For example, if a building receives water service delivered at 55 PSI, a PRV is usually not required, hence a thermal expansion tank is also not required since a PRV is not present on the system.
    • Understand that your water pipe system is dynamic. It goes through changes everyday. Depending on the material that your system is made of, you may want to monitor your water pressure more frequently.
      • PEX water pipe has become a popular alternative to traditional copper water pipes due to the lower direct material costs. Consumers should be aware, however, that as a plastic material, PEX is susceptible to premature failure with excessive water temperature and pressure. Generally, as pressure increases the ability to convey water of excessive temperature without failure decreases. One positive benefit off PEX piping is that it does not corrode like copper pipe, and installation is generally easier due to weight differences between the materials.
      • Copper water pipe is very durable against excessive water pressure and temperature. Even so, the weakness of copper piping is that somewhere, over time, it will eventually corrode or erode, leak, and require repair or replacement. This is a natural and expected event, especially in the presence of aggressive, high mineral content water, or in soil of high or low pH level. But as a durable, traditional material against pressure and temperature, copper is the better performer vs PEX.

Water is a valuable resource and an essential component for healthy living. Monitor your plumbing system by checking the water pressure before and after the pressure reducing valve at least once per year. Understand the signs and effects of thermal expansion due to heating water. Plan for plumbing maintenance and get ahead of emergencies and nightmares caused by plumbing system neglect. Controlling water pressure is where it all starts.

Think Proactive. Be Proactive.

Professional Plumbing Experts

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Proactive Plumbing is your local friendly plumbing company in the north county area providing reliable plumbing services, installations and repairs. Established in San Marcos, CA, we are freeway-close to most north county cities.

Our plumbers have served Oceanside, Carlsbad, Encinitas, Vista, San Marcos, Escondido, and other areas of San Diego county for over 15 years. Our attention to customer service and quality workmanship is backed by our happy customers’ 5-star reviews. We value the satisfaction, safety, and comfort of each client and strive to exceed their expectations.