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What to Do If You Smell Gas in Your House

Many homes in the Birmingham, AL area rely on natural gas or liquid propane heating to stay warm throughout the winter season. These systems are generally reliable and safe, but issues such as a gas leak pose a great danger to your family. Learn what to do if you smell gas inside your home this winter.

About Gas Heating

Two popular heating fuels used in homes throughout the Birmingham area are natural gas and liquid propane. Learn more about each fuel type so you’ll know what to do if you smell a gassy odor.

  • Natural gas is delivered by a utility service provider. It comes into your home through a connection to gas supply lines that serve multiple homes and buildings in your area. The supply line connects to your home at your home’s gas meter, and flows to individual appliances such as furnaces, stoves, and water heaters through the home’s private gas lines. 
  • Liquid propane (LP) is stored in a tank outside the home. Most tanks sit above ground several yards away from the home, though some older residences may still have buried tanks on the property. An LP provider is called by the homeowner to fill the tank as needed. It is stored as a liquid under pressure in the tank, and typically converted into a vapor for most residential applications. 

Identifying Gas

A gas leak may produce some symptoms. Learn to recognize the possible symptoms of a leak and find out what to do if you smell a gassy odor.


Both natural gas and liquid propane are naturally odorless. To help consumers more easily identify the presence of gas and possible gas leaks, suppliers and utility providers add odorants that give the gas a distinct smell. 

  • Ethyl mercaptan, also called ethanethiol, is used to add odor to liquid propane – many report that LP smells like rotten eggs or rotten cabbage, though some say it smells like garlic or a skunk.
  • Tertiary butyl mercaptan, isopropyl mercaptan, tetrahydrothiophene, methyl ethyl sulfide, and dimethyl sulfide are common chemicals used as odorants in natural gas. Natural gas typically smells similar to rotting eggs.

Propane is heavier than air, thus it sinks to the floor when leaked and will spread close to the ground. Check for the smell of propane at low spots across the room.

Natural gas is lighter than air, but quickly dissipates when released into the air. However, a natural gas leak in an enclosed air can cause gas levels to rise to the volume where combustion could occur, causing explosion or fire if exposed to a source of ignition. Make sure that you get out of the building immediately after smelling gas, as an emergency could very possibly occur.


A natural gas leak might create a noise you can hear. It may sound like a hissing or a high-pitched whistle coming from or near a gas line or gas appliance, such as a furnace, water heater, or stove. 


Signs of a gas leak you may be able to see include:

  • Visibly damaged gas pipes
  • White cloud or blowing dust near the gas pipe
  • Bubbles in standing water
  • Dead plants or vegetation with no other explanation for their death

What to Do If You Smell Gas

Trust your sense of smell. When gas leaks, it poses a very serious safety risk, so it is very important that you know what to do if you smell a gassy odor inside your home or business.

  • Leave the house immediately. Leave the door open as you exit the home, and if windows are already open, leave them open.
  • Call your gas utility provider’s emergency contact line for help. For Birmingham residents serviced by Spire Energy, the emergency number is 800-292-4008. You may also call 911 in the event of an emergency.
  • Turn off the gas meter, if possible.
  • Warn others to stay out of the area until the home has been cleared by professionals.
  • If you do not own the property, contact the property owner to notify him or her of the issue as repairs might need to be made.
  • Do not return to the home until you are told it is safe by a gas utility employee, or your local police or fire department first responders.

What to do when you smell gas is equally as important as what not to do. If you are in the house and you suspect a gas leak emergency, do not:

  • Turn on or off any electrical devices.
  • Light a flame anywhere nearby or smoke.
  • Use landline phones or cell phones
  • Use a flashlight.
  • Start a vehicle.
  • Attempt repairs yourself.

Call Douglas Cooling & Heating for Help

Keep your family safe – know what to do if you smell a gassy odor in your Birmingham, AL home. If your utility provider or fire department indicates the gas leak comes from your furnace, it must be professionally repaired before you use it again. 

Call Douglas Cooling & Heating for quick, reliable furnace repair service in the event of a gas leak. We aim to keep our neighbors safe and healthy through safe repair service and information on what to do if you smell a gassy odor. If you need assistance, make sure to call us anytime, 24 hours a day.

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