Natural gas is an eco-friendly method used for cooking, heating water and powering other appliances within the home. It’s growing in popularity, as it emits fewer greenhouse gases than some of its alternatives, including wood, coal and oil.
That doesn’t mean, however, that natural gas is free of its own issues. While it may be better for the atmosphere and cost less per month than many alternatives, using natural gas in your home can be potentially dangerous. As in, if too much gas is released into the air, you could be knocking at death’s door.
How Leaks Happen
Knowing the dangers and being able to detect a leak is essential. However, leaks are not incredibly common. More than 65 million homes in the U.S. use natural gas, and about 500 people die each year from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning.
A gas leak can occur for a number of reasons, namely accidents and malfunctions with the systems. Leaks are most common outdoors, actually, as there are more than 2 million miles of pipeline funneling gas around the country.
But leaks do occur inside homes as well. Thankfully, the gas companies do take action in order to protect you. They add a component to give the gas an odor; it is naturally colorless and odorless. See, the chemical mercaptan gives it the rotten egg smell, the smell of sulfur. While you may find it unpleasant, that nasty stench could your save your life.
Fighting Gas Leaks
If you’re still worried about gas leaks, even with the added smell, you can invest in a carbon monoxide detector. These little gadgets can cost between $30-$100, purchased online or at your local hardware store.
They will make a noise, similar to a smoke detector, making them more helpful when you’re sleeping, suffering from a cold or your sense of smell is impaired for any other reason. Many people recommend such detectors for peace of mind and additional safety.
The symptoms, when one is exposed to high and dangerous amounts of natural gas, are various. As you start to lose oxygen and begin inhaling carbon monoxide, you may experience dizziness, headache, stomach discomfort, confusion and even vomiting. Essentially, the symptoms are similar to those of the flu. If you don’t act quickly and remove yourself from the poisoned area, however, you can face worse conditions, including death.
So if at some point you do smell rotten eggs or your alarm goes off, there are some things you can do to protect yourself. First, because carbon monoxide is highly combustible, you’ll want to avoid flammable products. Mixing fire with the leaking gas could cause an explosion. So definitely don’t light any matches and blow out any candles or flames that are already alight.
Also note that, even without a leak, if you simply have natural gas in your home, you’re going to want to remove paper, wood and other easily ignited objects and move them away from burners and other gas sources.
Secondly, if you smell a leak, open your windows, allowing extra oxygen into the space. Finally, leave the premises promptly, and don’t re-enter until you’ve called for professional assistance. If there is no time to open windows, simply get outside as soon as possible.
Natural Gas Alternatives
Now, if you remain uncertain about natural gas and using it in your home, you can explore other energy options. Solar power and wind power are two sources of energy that, like natural gas, are great for the environment. Unlike natural gas, however, these two methods come with little or no risk for hazard.
There are numerous facets within the broad scope of solar and wind power, for example, solar heating, solar photovoltaics, solar thermal energy, solar architecture and artificial photosynthesis. Some methods can be pretty costly to install. But if you’re willing to pay for peace of mind, you may find one of these options a worthy investment.