what to do if you smell natural gas or heating oil

A woman smells a strong odor inside her home.

We have all heard tragic news stories, or even experienced local events in which people suffer the effects of a gas leak.  If smelling natural gas, it is always important to act quickly and carefully.  While a heating oil leak is much less dangerous, it can cause costly damage and lead to a lingering unpleasant smell that can be difficult to eradicate.  Please read on for advice specific to both types of leaks:

natural gas

According to the UGI website, these are the instructions to follow if smelling natural gas inside or outside of your home:

  • All people and pets should exit the building immediately, leaving the door open, if possible.  Everyone should continue away from the building until they are in safe place where they can no longer smell the odor of the gas.
  • Contact UGI directly at (800) 276-2722.
  • Call 911 if you hear or see natural gas blowing.

UGI also warns against dangerous actions:

  • Do not re-enter the building to open doors or windows.
  • Do not use phones, or any electrical devices inside the building if you smell gas.
  • Do not touch electrical outlets, switches or doorbells.
  • Do not smoke or use a lighter, match or other open flame.
  • Do not position or operate vehicles or powered equipment where leaking gas may be present.
  • Do not try to re-light a pilot light.
  • Do no re-enter the building until it has been thoroughly inspected by a UGI service technician.
  • Do not try to contact UGI by email or social media – call UGI or 911.

For more information about natural gas, please visit the UGI website: https://www.ugi.com/safety/natural-gas-safety/if-you-smell-natural-gas/.

heating oil

Heating oil, in its liquid state, is not combustible or “nonexplosive.”  For it to burn, it must be sprayed into a fine mist within a furnace or boiler.  If you smell heating oil within your home is not as dangerous as smelling natural gas, but it should never be ignored, and is often a sign that there is something wrong with your furnace, boiler, hot water heater, or oil tank.  There is typically no reason to call 911 if you smell heating oil in your home.  The only time that a heating oil odor may be normal is if the burner has ignited after the reset button has been pressed repeatedly and the unit is burning off excess oil that has gathered.  However, if the smell persists or worsens, it is most likely due to an issue described below:

possible reasons for heating oil odor

In a boiler or furnace, cracks can occur in the heat exchanger, allowing oil fumes to escape from the unit and into your home.  You can request a service call from an HVAC technician to diagnose the problem and replace the heat exchanger or entire unit.  A blockage or breakdown of the exhaust system can also present as an oil odor in your home, and should be fixed immediately.  Although fumes can cause a variety of minor physical irritations and reactions, the most dangerous part of improper ventilation is the possibility that carbon monoxide, a bi-product of the oil burning process, could be present in the house as well.

The pipes and fittings that transport oil between the oil tank and burner, can also fail, causing oil to leak.  As long as these pipes are visible and accessible, this type of leak is usually easily identified by a technician.

Oil can also leak in its liquid form from a tank if it is overfilled, or if parts of the tank are rusted or damaged.  Weaver Energy strives to prevent these occasions by requiring new tank inspections for all first-time customers during which a trained employee inspects the condition and location of the tank.  Oil delivery drivers also take measures to prevent over-filling tanks by listening carefully to the vent alarms on all tanks and stopping the filling process once the whistle sound is silent or extremely faint.  By doing this, they are able to stop adding oil to the tank while there is still some space at the top of the tank to allow for natural expansion.  If you find that your tank is leaking, place a bucket or pan beneath the tank to catch the oil until a service technician can pump out the fuel.  Do not wipe the tank bottom or leak, as this can make matters worse.  Our technicians carry temporary patches to stop the flow of oil until the fuel can be removed from the tank.  When heating oil comes into contact with porous surfaces, it can seep into the materials, discoloring them and often penetrating them with its strong odor.  Weaver Energy technicians carry topical products that are safe and specially formulated to use on these surfaces to absorb the oil, and neutralize most, if not all, of the odor.  Consumer products like these are also available at most hardware stores. 

contact us

If you have additional questions about any of these issues, or to place a service call or request an estimate, please contact our office at (717) 626-7169. 

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