Why Does Natural Gas Smell Like Rotten Eggs?

By in , ,
Why Does Natural Gas Smell Like Rotten Eggs?

“Ooh what smells like rotten eggs?”

If that question is asked in a chemistry classroom, it’s understandable. If, however, you start to smell rotten eggs in your Illinois or Northwest Indiana home, there is cause for concern because it could mean there is a natural gas or propane leak.

It stinks for a reason

You see, it’s all part of home gas safety. When it comes out of the ground natural gas is odorless, and that’s a problem because the first warning sign you might receive for a gas leak is a fire or explosion. The rotten egg smell is an early warning system. 

Smelly chemical is added

Because of the danger federal regulations require utility companies to add the odor. In this case it comes from the chemical mercaptan. It is a sulfur compound and was chosen because it is less corrosive than similar products. It’s also found naturally in many other smelly things including:

  • Rotten eggs
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Skunks
  • Bad breath

Don’t take chances

This means taking home gas safety seriously. If you smell natural gas or suspect a gas leak don’t fool around. Leave the area immediately and don’t do anything that could cause a spark including:

  • Turning on or off an electric switch
  • Using a cell phone, telephone, garage door opener, doorbell or even a flashlight
  • Lighting a match or any other type of lighter
  • Starting a vehicle or other machinery

Even if you believe you know where the leak is coming from, do not try to take care of the problem yourself. When you are at a safe distance call 911. Once the utility company has determined the situation is safe, then call Merts to repair any problem that was found.

A word about propane 

Whenever the subject is home gas safety, it’s important to include a separate note about propane. Many Illinois and Northwest Indiana homeowners who don’t have natural gas service rely on propane instead. It’s a perfectly safe alternative with one major difference. Unlike natural gas, propane is heavier than air so the gas will settle to the lowest level. A leak can go undetected for some time before you notice the rotten egg smell. Merts always recommends propane detectors for any of our customers who use this fuel.

Quality & Honesty Since 1952

This is what Merts Heating & Air Conditioning has been providing for our customers. Call now to schedule your furnace maintenance as part of practicing home gas safety. As always, more great information is available through our social media accounts. Be sure to like and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.