I live in an old house. My apartment is in a subdivided house that was built in 1902, and I love it. I love the tall ceilings, the absurd amount of windows, and the million tiny odd changes made by tenants and owners for the past 100-plus years.
My love affair with my apartment came to an abrupt end about the middle of November when the temperature dropped. I was suddenly aware of how many cracks a house collects in a century-long existence. My old house uses natural gas for heating, and I was initially nervous about using it. So I asked my property manager about how to use natural gas safely, and they gave me some great advice that kept me from shivering during the cold winter months.
Natural Gas Safety Tips
- Never try to light a pilot light or work on a natural gas-powered appliance yourself. Leave all the maintenance on water heaters, wall heaters, and heating units to certified professionals.
- The pilot light should always burn blue. If a yellow or orange flame is present, immediately alert your landlord and the natural gas company. This may be a sign of needed maintenance or other problems with the unit.
- Ask your technician to check the temperature of the water heater. Natural gas-powered water heaters should be kept at a comfortable 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Any higher and you risk burns, particularly for children and the elderly.
- Keep the area around any natural gas units clear of furniture, debris, and flammable material. Regularly clean the lint trap in your dryer.
- Never use a non-heating device (like a stove) to heat your home.
- Consider installing carbon monoxide detectors in your home. Ask your landlord to provide them.
- Check that fire extinguishers supplied by the landlord are functional and up-to-date.
- Don’t hesitate to alert your landlord if anything about your natural gas service seems off.
What if I smell natural gas?
When I was a kid, I knew two things about natural gas. First, it can kill you fast because it’s odorless. Second, natural gas can also smell like rotten eggs. I was understandably confused and hyper-vigilant about any scent in our house that could possibly resemble an egg.
The reason for these contradictory statements is that they’re both true, sort of. While the gas itself is odorless, natural gas companies add a chemical called mercaptan that gives the gas a rotten egg smell. If you notice a rotten egg smell in a home that uses natural gas, adhere to the prescribed rules for dealing with gas leaks.
Natural Gas Leak Safety
- Leave the building immediately. Evacuate your family members and any pets.
- When you get to a safe place, call your natural gas company first and then contact your landlord.
- Do not start a vehicle if it is in an attached garage. Don’t use an automatic garage opener.
- Don’t use matches, open flames, cigarettes, or an open flame inside a house with a suspected leak.
- Don’t use an electrical switch in the home.
- Don’t use your cellphone or a landline.
- Stay out of your house or apartment until a natural gas company representative arrives and you get the clearance to reenter your house.
Natural gas is safe, despite the generalized anxiety some people have around an open flame. Talk to your landlord about safety tips and precautions that are specific to your unit to ease your mind about using natural gas. Rest easy, and stay warm.