Gas pipe leaks, a hidden danger in residential buildings
Natural gas is currently a low cost source of energy used to provide heat and domestic hot water to small homes and multifamily dwellings. Considering it’s wide spread use in residential applications, gas has a relatively good safety record. However, this winter due to the unusually cold weather and subjected to extremes of expansion and contraction , aging cast iron gas distribution and building supply pipes some more than 70 years old have in many cases developed dangerous leaks. The Federal Government has been warning gas utilities for years to replace cast iron pipes due to concerns about deterioration. Several high profile explosions in the tri-state area have resulted in deaths, serious injuries and extensive property damage due to leaking gas lines.
Homeowners and renters can protect their families and properties by following a few common sense guidelines when facing possible gas leaks. It should be noted that in its natural state, gas is odorless. A chemical called mercapton is added during processing which has a sulfur like odor and is the universally accepted smell associated with gas. If you smell gas, immediately notify the gas utility; do not assume someone else has already done so. Do not strike a match, use a landline or cell phone in the area, switch on appliances, ring a door bell or even a turn on a flashlight; all of which can produce a spark and cause an explosion. To ensure that gas supply lines inside the home are safe, a homeowner can have a Building Performance Institute certified contractor perform a comprehensive energy assessment which includes a thorough inspection of all gas pipe connections using state of the art combustible gas indicators. Awareness of the potential danger associated with natural gas and applying a common sense approach regarding safety can protect people and properties.