Five years back, my aunt had a gas leak at her place. Her gas stove was left open and they had gone out for dinner. When they returned, their house was smelling of gas and they decided to stay at our place for the night. They left the next morning as they weren’t sure when it was safe to go back in the house and use the gas stove normally.
Since then I have been curious to find out when it is really safe to switch on the stove after a gas leak. So I did my research and have finally found a few answers. There can be two scenarios of a gas leakage.
If you have forgotten to turn off the burner and there is a gas leak, the best approach is to avoid turning on the burner again till the time you can smell the gas in the kitchen and near the stove. Once the smell is gone, you can switch on the stove again. So there is no fixed time after how long you have to turn on the stove.
On the other hand, if you smell gas even though the stove is turned off, that means there is a serious leak which you might not be able to find out. There can either be a defect in the cylinder or also the gas pipe in this matter. For this you need to call the emergency services or the gas mechanic at once and avoid switching on the stove till the problem is rectified.
In this post, we will discuss about the scenario where the knob of the gas stove had been kept on, since if it is the second scenario, all you have to do is to leave everything as it is and move out till the mechanic fixes the issue.
Precautions to be taken before switching on the Gas stove
Switch off the stove
As soon as you discover that the gas knob is switched on and you smell the strong gas odor, switch off the gas knob and for extra safety the regulator too. The most important thing to do in this case is to ensure that the source of the leakage i.e. the gas stove is switched off.
Avoid switching on any electrical appliances
Gas can’t be seen. You can have no idea how much gas has leaked or how far it has reached. When you switch on an electric switch or an appliance, there can be chances of sparking. If the gas has reached till the switchboard or the electrical appliance, it can catch fire.
So it is better to keep away from any electrical device and wait for the gas to dissipate. Even after you can’t smell the gas, wait atleast half an hour before you switch on any electrical device. Even though it is dark, and you want to switch on the lights, just wait till things are safer.
You might think that if you switch on the fan, the gas would escape quicker if the windows are open. While logically it is true, considering the risks associated with switching on any electrical supply, just avoid switching it on.
Open the windows wide
As soon as you detect the leak, open all the windows of the house. Even though the gas might not have reached some parts of the house, as a precaution open the windows of every room of the house.
Opening the windows of the house especially that of the kitchen will help the gas to escape faster. But here’s the catch. If you have an exhaust fan fixed to the window, DO NOT switch it on with the hope that the gas will escape further. After all it is an electrical device and you run the same risk.
Keep children away from the kitchen
Though you might take all the precautions that are required to be taken in the event of a gas leak, if you have small children it can become difficult to ensure they follow the safety measures. So the best option is to keep the children away from the kitchen till the gas leak has been addressed.
If possible, send them outside or to a neighbor’s house till the time the gas is circulating in the kitchen and the house.
Solutions for limiting the gas leak
Whether the gas leak is by turning the stove knob on or a leak in the gas pipeline, there are some ways how you can limit the extent of the gas leak and prevent any probable widespread damage.
Use a gas detector
You may already know of gas detectors and how useful they can be to detect a gas leak and prevent any related accident. Gas leaks might be rare and you might think it can be an unnecessary cost to install a gas detector in your kitchen.
But then a gas leak can occur only once and an accident has to happen only once to change things forever. A one-time investment taken for your own safety shouldn’t be considered as an extra cost.
Use a flame supervision device (Flame failure device)
Flame supervision device (FSD) is a device that is designed to stop the gas reaching the burner in a gas stove if the flame is extinguished. If the flame of the gas stove is extinguished due to a strong gush of wind, the flame supervision device will help prevent the gas from reaching the stove burner.
Although it is not mandatory to install an FSD for a domestic gas stove, it is in your best interest to do so if you have an airy kitchen with frequent gusts of air.
Gas stoves with electronic ignition
Most modern gas stoves today come with electronic ignition. You don’t need a flame to light the stove. All you have to do is turn the knob to a position that initiates sparks on the burner and the flame is lit.
So if you have turned on the knob, there will always be a flame on the stove. So there’s no question of turning ON the knob and forgetting about it, which can result in a gas leak.
Can cooking gas be toxic when leaked?
Cooking gas is generally not poisonous if you have proper ventilation and installation. However, a faulty apparatus can result in incomplete combustion leading to carbon monoxide combustion which can cause health effects
In the event of a gas leak if inhaled in small quantities, it will not result in poisoning or ill health. However, if the leakage is a lot and you inhale large amounts, it can lead to asphyxiation or nausea.
What should you do if there is a gas leak and you cannot detect the reason?
In case there is a gas leak and you are not able to pinpoint the reason, the best approach is to move out of the house and call the emergency services and later the gas mechanic.
Should you quit using gas stoves because of the risk?
Of course not! Gas leak accidents are very rare and if you are alert and ensure proper usage of the gas apparatus, gas stoves are the best bet for cooking and heating food.