There is nothing better than a warm cozy fire in your fireplace on a cold winter’s day. Gas fireplaces with gas logs can be even better. You get the heat and the ambiance without the mess, the soot, and the ashes to clean up. But if you smell something foul, could it be your gas fireplace leaking?
Gas fireplaces can potentially leak gas. It does not happen often, but when natural gas does leak, it is extremely dangerous. It can make you ill, and it is very flammable. If you suspect you have a natural gas leak, leave your house and call for help.
Natural gas is used in many appliances and in many homes. It is normally very safe. A gas leak is a rare occurrence and not something to be overly afraid of. However, gas leaks can happen, so it is better to be aware of the signs. Read on to learn how to know if your gas fireplace is leaking and what to do if there is a leak.
How Do You Know If Your Gas Fireplace Is Leaking?
Keep in mind: You do not have to confirm you have a gas leak in order to call for help. If you suspect you might have a gas leak, you should get out of the house immediately, as gas leaks can be extremely dangerous for several reasons. Your gas company can test your fireplace to confirm whether or not it is leaking.
Gas companies add a chemical into natural gas to make it stink since natural gas alone is odorless, colorless, and undetectable. If the area around your fireplace smells like rotten eggs, your gas fireplace may be leaking.
If you suspect that gas is leaking from your fireplace because perhaps you are feeling unwell, here are some things you can do to check:
- Make your house quiet by turning off all the electrical appliances and put your ear close to the fireplace to check for a hissing sound of a gas leak
- Look into the fireplace base with a flashlight to see if you can spot the movement of debris or dust that might signal a gas line leaking
- Look at your plants around where the gas lines are outside and see if they appear yellow or brown as if dead
- Make a mixture of soapy water and cover the gas lines while looking for air bubbles to form
In all the suggestions above, you are looking for telltale signs of a gas leak. There should be some indication through either thing being disturbed by the gas’s movement (as in dust moving or air bubbles forming) or plants dying because they are being covered in gas.
Physical Symptoms Caused by Gas Leaks
If natural gas is leaking into your home, it can cause adverse physical symptoms. One of the first symptoms to be aware of is a dull headache. Other symptoms include:
- Feeling dizzy
- A state of confusion
- Difficulty breathing
A natural gas leak can even cause unconsciousness and difficulty seeing. A gas leak can be especially dangerous to a person who has fallen asleep or who has had too much to drink. In severe cases, exposure to a natural gas leak can cause irreversible brain damage or death.
Can Gas Fireplaces Cause Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?
When the molecule of carbon monoxide builds up in your bloodstream, it is called carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide begins to enter your bloodstream in place of oxygen when the level of carbon monoxide around you has gotten dangerous. Usually, this happens in an enclosed or poorly ventilated space.
There are many sources of carbon monoxide, including natural gas, that can be dangerous if it is allowed to build up in your house or in a place without proper ventilation. Other sources are:
- Burning wood
- Burning charcoal
- Burning gasoline
- Engine or appliance exhaust
Natural gas is odorless and colorless, but companies put an odor into the gas to make it detectable, and the odor is the unmistakable smell of rotten eggs. You may have a gas leak if you smell rotten eggs.
However, it is important to note that your fireplace does not use as much gas as other gas appliances in your home. If your fireplace has a natural gas leak, you may begin to feel the adverse physical symptoms before you smell rotten eggs.
Is It Normal to Smell Gas with a Gas Fireplace (Both While On and Off)?
You do not ever want to smell gas. The smell should not be coming from your fireplace at any time, whether your fireplace is on or off. If you do smell the natural gas leaking at any time, you need to leave home and call for help.
While you should never smell natural gas coming from your fireplace, you may smell other odors. If those odors do not have a rotten egg smell, they may still smell unusual and cause concern. It is important to spend a few moments addressing what those odors could be.
Odors From a New Fireplace
If your fireplace is new, it is not only likely but expected that you would smell unusual odors coming from it the first few hours that you burn it. Why would new fireplaces naturally smell weird?
- New paints
- New adhesives
It is most likely because of the paints that are put on the stove in the factory, which have not gotten used to the heat of a fire. It is also likely because of adhesives that the installers used when installing the stove or the mantle of rock or marble surrounding the stove.
When the fireplace heats up, it can activate these odors until some time passes and the fireplace cures.
Odors From an Old Fireplace
Even old fireplaces may develop unusual odors. Here are a couple of things to watch out for. Your gas fireplace still needs oxygen to burn. As oxygen is drawn in by your fireplace, it may take dust with it. Dust that has settled underneath or on top of the fireplace frame can easily cause an unusual odor when it heats up.
Oxygen can also bring with it ambient odors in your home, odors you would not normally smell until amplified by the heat of the fire. This can especially be the case if you have placed:
- A new decoration by the mantle
- A new rug in front of the fireplace
- A candle on the mantle
Try removing the new items to see if the odor goes away. If you have added a number of new decorations, then you may need to try removing them one at a time to find the culprit.
What Should You Do if You Smell Gas (And Who Should You Call)?
If you smell gas leaking from your fireplace (or from any appliance), leave your house immediately, opening a window for ventilation on your way out. Remember, gas can cause adverse physical symptoms, including headaches, nausea, and confusion. It is also highly flammable. A spark can cause an explosion if enough gas has built up.
Once you are safely out of the house, you need to call the proper authorities. You can either call your utility company or, if you do not have their number handy, you can call 911. Either entity should be able to offer guidance. Your utility company will be able to offer the most specific help and pinpoint the issue for you.
If you have a gas fireplace, you need to be aware of the warning signs of a leak and what to do if you think you do have a leak. In this situation, knowledge can keep you safe. If you know what to watch out for, then you know how to keep yourself from getting hurt in the rare event of a gas leak.
Be aware of the physical symptoms that a gas leak can cause and get yourself clear of the area before the symptoms become severe. Trust your nose. Your fireplace should keep you warm and not ever smell like gas. If you smell rotten eggs, it is time to take action and get out of your home.
Need More Help?
You can always ask us here at Fireplace Tips, but you should know the other resources available to you! Here are the resources we recommend.
- Chimney Safety Institute of North America (CSIA): The CSIA is your BEST resource for fireplace and chimney safety at home. They’re a non-profit governed by a volunteer board of directors dedicated to the education, training, and certification of chimney and industry related professionals.
- Self-Sufficiency and Off-Grid: If you’re like me and passionate about off-grid and self-sufficiency, see my number 1 resource—Abundance Plus. Check out their Frugal Homesteading Course on growing 90% of your own food. Get 7-days free and 10% off with the code: TYLER10