Natural Gas Safety - Home

A utility employee trainer demonstrates how to re-light natural gas appliances at National Fuel's state-of-the-art training facility.

Detecting a Gas Odor

Natural gas, in its natural state, is colorless and odorless. Because of this, natural gas providers must add a harmless, non-toxic odorant to it to make it more readily detectable. These odorants are typically mercaptans and produce the well known "gassy odor" that is associated with natural gas, usually described as a rotten egg smell.

If you detect a faint smell of gas, check to see if you have a pilot light out or a burner that is not completely turned off. Then open windows and doors to ventilate. Do not attempt to re-light without ventilating the area first. If you smell a strong gas odor, or are unable to detect the cause of the odor:

DO

  • Leave the premises.
  • Call National Fuel's emergency line, 1-800-444-3130, from a different location.

DON'T

  • Switch lights on or off.
  • Light any matches.
Natural gas is one of the most safe and clean-burning energy sources available. At National Fuel, providing safe, reliable natural gas service at the lowest possible price is our highest priority.

Heating Safety & Efficiency


Have your heating system inspected by a qualified contractor every year before the heating season begins. The contractor should provide the following services:
  • Check the heat exchangers for cracks, rust and corrosion.
  • Clean and check the flue and vent pipes for any obstructions, corrosion or pipe separations.
  • Check your heating system, or have it tested, for proper ventilation.
  • Clean or replace all furnace filters.
  • Check blower operation, clean and lubricate.
  • Check and adjust any pilots and burners.
  • Check that your gas appliances produce a sharp blue flame.
  • Check all electrical connections and controls.

Always keep flammable materials outdoors, in approved containers and away from your furnace, water heater and all other natural gas appliances.

Protecting Your Family From Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and potentially dangerous gas produced when fuel (heating oil, propane, kerosene, charcoal, gasoline, wood or natural gas) is burned without enough air for complete combustion. If inhaled in large quantities for a prolonged time period, carbon monoxide can cause unconsciousness, brain damage and even death.

Learning to identify the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning is the first step toward protecting you and your family. These symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Coughing
  • Headache
  • Irregular breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Overall paleness
  • Nausea
  • Cherry red lips and ears

If you, or anyone in your household, experience these symptoms, immediately open windows and doors to ventilate your home, then move outside and call 9-1-1 or the fire department.

There are a number of steps you can take to minimize the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning, including:

  • Have your chimney, appliances and heating equipment inspected and tested by a qualified professional every year.
  • Install ventless heaters in accordance with manufacturer specifications, never using them as a primary heat source.
  • Install at least one carbon monoxide detector in your home. Do not rely on carbon monoxide detectors as a substitute for maintaining appliances, heating equipment or chimneys. If you do choose to install a carbon monoxide detector, use it as an additional preventative measure.*
  • Clear snow and ice from exhaust vents and intake air vents for gas appliances to prevent carbon monoxide from accumulating in your home.
  • Never use a gas oven or stovetop for heating your home.
  • Never run a gasoline engine (such as a gasoline generator) or an automobile in an enclosed space.
  • Never use a portable charcoal or propane grill indoors.

*You should make sure that any carbon monoxide detector you consider for purchase is listed by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) to the current UL 2034 standard, "Carbon Monoxide Detectors." National Fuel does not endorse or recommend any specific brand of carbon monoxide detector.

Odor Fade (Loss of Odorant)

Odor fade is the weakening over time of the olfactory effect of normally odorized gas. In other words, there is something either in the gas or pipe that is reducing the strength of the odor. Known contributors to odor fade problems include new pipe installation (both steel and plastic), substances within the pipe such as oxidation (rust) or natural gas liquids, and little or no gas flow over an extended period of time.

DO NOT rely on your sense of smell alone to detect the presence of natural gas, especially when purging a pipeline of natural gas (see, Purging of Gas Lines below).

Purging of Gas Lines

DO NOT purge the contents of a gas line into a confined space or where gas could accumulate. Any release of natural gas presents the potential for explosion and fire.

Purging of gas should only be performed by a qualified professional in a well-ventilated area or by venting the contents to the outside atmosphere. Before purging, identify and eliminate all sources of ignition in the area where the gas may be vented. Always use gas detection equipment during purging operations or when working on gas piping facilities to determine if natural gas is present. DO NOT rely on your sense of smell alone to detect the presence of natural gas.

Consult your local fuel gas code for more information. When installing gas appliances or equipment, follow the manufacturer's instruction manual in accordance with the local code requirements.

Natural Gas Safety in Your Home

Natural gas appliances, equipment and connectors should always be installed and used in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. They may also be subject to manufacturer product recalls. Improper use of these devices, or continued use of recalled products may result in a hazardous situation for you, your family or your neighbors. It is recommended that you periodically check with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (1-800-638-CPSC or www.recalls.gov) or product manufacturers to see if any of your natural gas equipment has been recalled.

Replacing Appliance Connectors

Natural gas connectors are corrugated metal tubes used to connect gas appliances in your home to gas supply pipes. Some older, uncoated brass connectors can crack or come apart, causing a gas leak that could result in a very dangerous situation. Any uncoated brass connector should be replaced immediately with a new connector made of either plastic-coated brass or stainless steel. After disconnecting gas appliances, gas connectors should always be removed and should never be reused. The natural gas line should then be plugged or capped.

Only a qualified, licensed plumber, heating contractor or appliance repairperson should check your connector and replace it if needed. Do not try to do this yourself!

Do not move your appliance to check the connector. Moving the appliance, even slightly, could cause the complete failure of one of these connectors.

Improper Piping

National Fuel does not recommend that you install your own natural gas lines. Only a qualified heating contractor or plumber should install gas lines. If work is needed, ask the contractor to install rigid steel pipe or flexible stainless steel piping.

Since 1990, corrugated stainless steel tubing (CSST) has been installed in many homes and businesses, often coated with a yellow or black exterior. If lightning strikes a structure with CSST, it is possible for natural gas leaks or fires to occur in some cases. A qualified plumber should conduct an inspection to determine if CSST is present in the structure. If CSST is present, a licensed electrician can install a bonding device, which will reduce chances for natural gas leaks or fires to occur in the event of a lightning strike.

Service Lines

National Fuel is always responsible for maintaining its natural gas main and service lines. Other gas pipes and lines running from the gas meter to your appliances belong to the property owner. The owner should conduct regular inspections of these facilities to ensure proper/safe operation. Owners are also responsible for maintaining and repairing their pipes and lines as needed. Avoid hanging items from gas piping in order to minimize stress placed on pipes.

Scalding Hazards

Extremely hot water can be dangerous. Make sure your water heater or boiler is set to a safe temperature (as recommended by the manufacturer). Always check the water temperature prior to placing a child in the bathtub and never leave a child in the bathtub without adult supervision.

What To Do In Case of Flooding

If there has been flooding in your home, be safe and call National Fuel, especially if you smell natural gas. Our emergency number is 1-800-444-3130. Water can damage your natural gas appliances. If any gas appliance burner or its controls have been under water, DO NOT attempt to relight the appliance. A qualified contractor should be called to inspect your equipment before it can be used again.

Call Before You Dig, Drill or Blast - It's the Law!

A damaged natural gas pipeline or service line to a house may create an explosion hazard, resulting in injury and death, severe property damage and loss of vital service. If you are planning a project that involves digging, trenching, drilling, grading or excavating, the following guidelines apply:

  • In New York, call 8-1-1 before you dig at least two full business days before the start of your project.
  • In Pennsylvania, call 8-1-1 before you dig at least three full business days before the start of your project.
  • We will send a professional to conduct a FREE site survey and mark the underground lines on your property.
  • Once your underground lines have been marked, you will know the approximate location of your utility lines.
  • Respect the marks and dig with care using hand tools near underground lines.
  • Have an emergency plan.

8-1-1 is the national number you should call before you begin any digging project. Whether you are planning to do it yourself or hire a professional, smart digging means calling 8-1-1 before each job.

Click here to be directed to the Call 8-1-1 website.

Encroachment

Even if a construction project is not expected to interfere directly with existing natural gas pipelines, obstructions too close to, or on top of gas facilities, are known as encroachment. These include fences, additions, porches, garages, sheds and landscaping. To ensure your safety and National Fuel's ability to access its pipelines, call our toll-free number at 1-800-365-3234.

Gas Safety Outdoors

Snow, ice debris and other obstructions can damage gas meters, related equipment, pipes and natural gas appliances, rendering them unsafe. Use a broom to keep gas service equipment and piping clear of such obstructions and inspect roof drainage to prevent ice accumulation that could damage above-ground outdoor facilities. Chimneys and vents for gas appliances must be kept free of snow and ice to enable proper venting and to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. The gas meter must be easily accessible at all times.

Cross Bore Sewer Line Safety New Topic

A blocked sewer line may be the result of another utility line (gas, electric, telecommunications) having been accidentally "cross bored" through a sewer line.

"Cross Bores" occur when natural gas lines or other utilities are unintentionally and unknowingly installed through sanitary or storm sewer lines when using trenchless construction technology. The hazard occurs when mechanical equipment used to unclog sewer lines hits and penetrates a natural gas line which can lead to a dangerous and unintended release of natural gas into a home or building.

National Fuel has taken extensive measures to insure that our current trenchless construction practices are safe. However, in recent years, "Cross Bores" have led to several incidents across the nation that have resulted in property damage, injury and death.

If unable to visually verify that a cross bore blockage does not exist, follow these precautionary measures before you attempt to clear a sewer blockage beyond the outside wall of a building:

  • Call 811 for underground utility locations to determine if the blockage is in the vicinity of utility lines;
  • If you suspect that a sewer blockage was caused by a natural gas line, please call National Fuel at 1-800-444-3130 so that we can safely investigate. If you find a cable cross bored through the sewer, please call your local electric or telecommunications utility to investigate the situation.

If you suspect a natural gas leak by smelling, seeing or hearing gas escaping:

  • Do not operate any equipment and eliminate sources of ignition;
  • Leave and instruct others to leave the area;
  • Call National Fuel's emergency line from another location at 1-800-444-3130.

For more information on "Cross Bore" safety, please visit the Cross Bore Safety Association website at www.crossboresafety.org.

Ask For Identification

For your safety, every National Fuel representative carries an identification card. If the card is not clipped onto his or her clothing for easy viewing, ask to see it. If proper identification is displayed, please let the representative complete his or her job. If you are suspicious or have questions, contact us immediately at 1-800-365-3234. If you feel there might be a problem, call the local police.

Gas Theft Tip Line

Stealing natural gas is costly to all of us and can be extremely dangerous. If you know of someone who is tampering with a gas meter or making an unauthorized connection, please call our confidential, 24-hour, toll-free Gas Theft Tip Line.

  • In New York, call 1-800-992-9926.
  • In Pennsylvania, call 1-800-835-6672.

You could help prevent a crime and protect the safety of innocent people.

Click here for more information about Pipeline Safety.