You Can’t Always Smell a Propane Gas Leak

Date: September 11, 2023

Certain Conditions Can Make It Difficult to Detect

gas leak tennessee In its natural form, propane is odorless, but manufacturers deliberately add a chemical compound to give it a strong unpleasant smell. This odorized propane is usually described as something that is similar to the odor of rotten eggs or a skunk’s spray.

However, there are situations that may prevent you from detecting that telltale odor of a propane gas leak. Sometimes, conditions in your home – or in your body – can make it harder to pick up propane’s scent.

Commonly known as “odor loss,” this can be caused by:

  • Too much air, water, or rust in your propane tank
  • A propane leak underground (soil diffuses propane’s odor)
  • Odor “sticking” to the inside of the propane distribution pipes
  • Diminished sense of smell, caused by old age, sinus congestion or other medical conditions,

The good news is that there are two precautions you can take.

  1. Install a propane gas detector (or detectors, depending on the size and layout of your home). A propane gas detector, not to be confused with a carbon monoxide detector, is an inexpensive but vital piece of safety equipment. For best results, follow manufacturer’s instructions for placement and maintenance.
  2. When in doubt, follow propane safety procedures. React immediately to even the faintest propane odor and follow the propane safety measures outlined below to get your family to safety.

What to Do if You Smell Gas

  • Extinguish all smoking materials and any open flames or other sources of ignition. Everyone should vacate the building, vehicle or affected area.
  • Move away without using any electric switches, appliances, thermostats or telephones.
  • If it is safe to do so, close the gas shutoff valve on the propane tank or cylinder.
  • Call your propane supplier or your local fire department from a mobile phone or a neighbor’s telephone.
  • Even if you do not continue to smell propane, do not open or turn on the propane supply valve. Do not reenter the building, vehicle or affected area. Let a qualified propane service technician or emergency personnel check for escaping propane gas.
  • Have a properly trained propane service technician repair the leak. The propane service technician or emergency responder needs to determine that the leak situation has been fully resolved. The propane service technician should check all your gas appliances and relight any appliance pilots.
  • Return to your home only when the service technician or emergency responder indicates that it is safe to do so.

Preventive Maintenance in Your Tennessee Home

Without question, propane is one of the safest fuels you can choose for your Tennessee home. But to stay as safe as possible, you should always pay close attention to the operation of your gas appliances. The best way to keep all your propane equipment running properly is to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for preventive maintenance. Be sure to consult your owner’s manuals for what’s required.

More Propane Safety Tips

When appliances operate properly, propane burns with a blue flame. If you see yellow flames—or notice significant amounts of soot on any equipment–the gas may not be burning completely. This can create carbon monoxide. Contact your local Tennessee propane company or HVAC contractor for service if you notice a yellow flame or soot on your appliances. If you don’t have carbon monoxide detectors in your home, install them as soon as possible for safety’s sake.

You should also regularly check the outdoor vents of your appliances to make sure combustion gases flow unobstructed to the outdoors. Insects, birds and small animals can build nests in vent pipes. To prevent any damage, use a broom or a soft brush to gently remove any obstructions you find in your vents.

You can read more safety tips here.

If you have questions or concerns about propane safety, be sure to consult with your local Tennessee propane company.