If you smell gas, then this could be dangerous, but first, do you actually have gas service?
Gas is not something to mess with. If you think you smell gas and you have gas utilities, be safe. Crack some windows. Go outside, keep reading, and decide what to do next. When in doubt, call Vectren, the gas company, 800.227.1376.
Note that it is totally normal on automatic pilots (pilots that do NOT stay lit all the time) to smell a little natural gas when the are first turned on. A little gas will escape as the pilot and burners light on your heat or appliance.
Does your unit actually have gas service?
Yes, we do get calls from people who don’t have gas but smell ‘gas’ and are freaked out. If you don’t have gas service, then it is likely not explosive gas (i.e. natural gas or propane). Of course if your whole area around your house smells of gas, then there maybe a nearby gas line leak and that would be a big deal, so call Vectren if so. We have a list of most units with either gas furnace, gas appliances, or both.
Have Gas? Check Pilots!
You confirmed you actually DO have gas service. Check the pilot light on your furnace and on your stove. On the furnace, there is usually a front plate. With the lights off, bend down and see if you can see a small blue flame. On the stove, if you lift up the lid, you should be able to see a small flame (sometimes more than one) and/or if you put your hand on the top of the stove it should feel warm between some of the burners. Newer gas stovetops have automatic pilot lights and will not be warm or have a pilot unless turned on. If either the stove or furnace is not lit, relight it. If you don’t know how, turn the gas off at the source (usually a knob behind the stove and a knob leading to the furnace). If only one appliance has the pilot out (like the stove) or smells, you don’t need to turn off the other.
Sewer Gas vs Utility Gas
Pilots on or you don’t have gas service? It is very likely what you smell is “sewer gas” which can come up into a house when the traps in drains get dry. It’s a pungent gas-like smell. Natural gas smells like rotten eggs (on purpose). This is more ‘sewer’ like. The ‘traps’ in drains hold water. They keep odors from coming back up the pipes. When they dry out, there is nothing to prevent odors from returning up the drains. Run water down ALL your open drains, especially any that are not used frequently, and fill a cup of water, find your drain by your furnace and pour water down it too (think big cup, not shot glass). This one is often the culprit in late fall or early winter because you stop using the AC. The AC drains ‘condensate’ (water) down the drain. When you switch to no AC, then this one can dry out, and odors can make their way into the home from the drain system at that point.
Still not sure what to do and are sure its gas? Call Vectren, 800.227.1376, then reach out to us.