furnace smells like gas

Is It Normal for My Furnace to Smell Like Gas?

NOTE: If you’re reading this blog because there is a strong smell of gas in your house, or you hear hissing, turn off your furnace, immediately leave your home, and call your local gas company or 9-1-1. Do not turn any appliance or light switch on or off and do not light a match or cigarette lighter. Get every person out of the home until you’re instructed otherwise.

While that’s a scary note, the truth is you must treat a gas smell seriously. There are only a few instances when the smell of gas is not a cause for concern.

We’ll take a look at what they are as well as when you need to call the local gas company or 9-1-1.

Know What to Check

There are two types of gas used in furnaces: natural gas and propane. Both are completely odorless and highly harmful. Because neither of them has an odor, gas companies are required to add a Sulphur or rotten egg smelling “perfume” so we can detect when there’s gas in the air.

Here are a few times when you might detect that smell, and it isn’t serious:

  • The gas from your furnace exhaust pipe is blowing back in the windows – This means the gas is being safely expelled from your home, but the wind is bringing it back inside. Pay attention to when you notice the smell and see if the wind is always coming from the same direction. If so, you may just need to close a window or flue.
  • The first time your furnace is used in the winter – when furnaces sit idle for months, dust and debris build up. The first time you turn it on, you might detect a bit of gas odor as it clears out the cobwebs and burns up the dust.
  • Kicking on each cycle – It’s possible to detect a faint odor every time your furnace kicks on. If the smell goes away after a bit there probably isn’t a reason for concern; however, it’s a good idea to get your furnace checked to be sure.

Other things that might smell like gas:

  • Compost/Trash – If your compost pile or trash can sits close to the window by your furnace, you might be smelling last week’s breakfast instead of a gas leak.
  • Propane Grill – If your propane grill sits near a window close to your furnace, it’s possible the propane tank has a leak or wasn’t closed properly after your last cookout.

Know When to Call about a Gas Leak

A gas leak is extremely dangerous due to carbon monoxide poisoning as well as the risk of explosions or fires. If you can answer “yes” to ANY of the following questions, you need to evacuate immediately and call your local gas company or 9-1-1. Tell them you suspect a gas leak.

  • Is the gas smell coming from your home’s air vents? (Open the windows before testing!)
  • Is the smell constantly there (i.e. you don’t have to sniff around to find it)?
  • Do you hear a hissing or whistling sound near the furnace or another gas appliance? (If you’re near a pipeline it will sound more like a roar.)
  • Is your CO2 detector going off?

Remember: if you can answer “yes” to ANY of these questions, LEAVE. Turn off your furnace, and don’t create a spark of any kind – either from an electrical charge, a match, or a lighter. Call the local gas company or 9-1-1.

How to Prevent a Gas Leak

While there will be circumstances beyond your control, there are a couple of things you can do to minimize the risk of suffering a tragedy from a gas leak.

  • Buy a carbon monoxide detector – Carbon monoxide is produced any time fuel is burned, such as when your furnace runs. Carbon monoxide is odorless and just as deadly as natural or propane gasses. Spending a few extra dollars for a carbon monoxide detector could be the difference between getting out in the middle of the night and never waking up.
  • Maintain your furnace – Having an annual checkup and making repairs as they’re needed will keep your furnace healthy and keep you and your family out of the hospital – or worse.

The Experts at Abbey Appliance are Here to Help

If you ever have to make that emergency call, the gas company and fire department will help with the gas leak, but they won’t repair your furnace. Abbey Appliance offers same-day service in Kansas and Missouri area, so we can help repair your furnace if needed.

We can also help you maintain your furnace and other appliances, so you will never have to make that call about a gas leak. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.