During the cold winter months of the year in Champaign, IL, your home’s gas furnace will frequently cycle. If you happen to be standing near the furnace when it turns on, you might notice the faint odor of natural gas. Your nose can detect this odor at a concentration of just 10 parts per billion. If you notice the odor, it’s important to know whether or not it’s normal. Here’s what you need to know about when it is and isn’t normal to smell natural gas by your furnace.
What Causes the Natural Gas Odor?
The odor of natural gas is added to the product by the gas supplier or distributor. It’s caused by a chemical additive called mercaptan. This additive has sulfur in it, so that’s why it smells strong and foul to nearly all people. The odor gets your attention, and it’s designed to alert you to the possibility of a gas leak. Without this additive, natural gas has no color, taste, or smell.
Beginning of a Heating Cycle
At the beginning of the heating cycle, the gas supply valve opens and releases the natural gas into the combustion chamber. It takes the pilot or ignition a fraction of a second to ignite the natural gas. If you’re standing next to the furnace when the heating cycle starts, you might smell a quick, faint whiff of natural gas. This odor should go away within a few seconds.
Natural Gas Odor Throughout a Heating Cycle
If you smell natural gas at the start of a heating cycle, and it persists, this isn’t normal. It means that there’s a problem with the combustion process or the combustion chamber itself. The combustion chamber may be dirty and in need of maintenance. The heat exchanger could have a crack. It’s also possible that the furnace’s burner isn’t producing a good flame to consistently burn the gas. The seal of the combustion chamber may have failed, or there could be an air leak in the combustion chamber. These are all serious problems that require professional attention. You should evacuate your home and call for emergency furnace repairs.
Gas Odor in the Absence of a Heating Cycle
If there’s no heating cycle, and you smell gas near your furnace, this is an urgent problem. Evacuate everyone from your home, including any pets. Once you’re safely out of your home and at least 50 feet away, call for emergency repairs. Your home may have a gas leak, and doing something as minor as flipping a light switch could create a spark that ignites the gas. A professional needs to inspect your home’s furnace and the gas line in order to determine if there’s a leak. It’s always better to call for emergency service than to put your health and home at risk.
Smell of Gas Throughout Your House
If you smell natural gas throughout your house, get out immediately. Make sure everyone, including pets, is out of your home. Once you’re at a safe distance away from the structure, call for repairs. If anyone has symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, call for emergency medical assistance. The signs of carbon monoxide poisoning include fatigue, nausea, dizziness, headache, disorientation, confusion, and shortness of breath. Pregnant women, babies the elderly, and people with chronic breathing problems or heart disease are more susceptible to the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning.
How to Prevent a Gas Leak in Your Furnace
The best way to prevent a problem with your furnace is to schedule an annual furnace tune-up. Our technicians take a look at every component of the heating system, including the gas supply valve, burner, ignition or pilot, heat exchanger, combustion chamber, flue, and more. This annual maintenance visit allows us to identify signs of wear and tear or a part failure that could put you and your loved ones at risk. We also recommend installing a carbon monoxide detector. These detect the presence of poisonous carbon monoxide gas and sound an alarm if the level of gas is enough to cause poisoning.
At Bash Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc., we’re the trusted providers of furnace repairs in Champaign. You can also turn to us for air conditioning repairs and heating and cooling maintenance, replacement, and installation services. Our sheet metal fabrication ensures that you get the ductwork you need for indoor comfort. For more details about when it is and isn’t normal to smell gas by your furnace, contact us at Bash Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc..