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.

About the Author

Steve R

Plumber by day, zombie killer by night.