Identifying Gas Line Issues Before They Become a Major Problem

If you use natural gas to power one or more appliances in your Harrisburg, PA home, it’s important to know how to identify gas line leaks and blockages early on. Although natural gas supply lines are generally safe, certain issues can make them far less so. Unchecked problems can lead to fires, inhalation poisoning, and dangerous explosions. Fortunately, there are several easy ways to ensure that gas line troubles never have the chance to spiral out of control on your property.

Learn the Signs and Symptoms of the Most Common Gas Line Issues

Much like the carbon monoxide that fuel-burning appliances produce during incomplete combustion, natural gas is both colorless and odorless. To help consumers detect it, natural gas suppliers add mercaptans. These sulfur-containing compounds give natural gas a distinctive, rotten egg smell. Thus, if you have an active gas leak or an impending gas line rupture, these unpleasant odorants will likely capture your attention first.

In ideal cases, you should be able to identify developing problems before natural gas enters your general living space and before your indoor air quality (IAQ) and safety decline. In fact, there might even be times when you can proactively predict and prevent certain problems. Leaks, blockages, loose connections, and faulty gas-fired appliances are among the most common gas line concerns in residential settings. Moreover, each of these issues comes with its own set of telltale signs and symptoms.

Leaky Gas Line Valves

Gas line valves control the flow of gas into homes. Your gas line might have more than one. Often made from high-grade plastics or metal, these valves gradually break down over time. Despite being made to operate under high pressure, they can crack and suffer other adverse structural changes after just five years. One of the best ways to prevent leaky gas line valves is by having your gas line and all of its components inspected yearly.

If you haven’t had your gas line serviced in quite some time and if its valves are already breaking down, you might hear light hissing sounds around this component or pick up the rotten egg scent of mercaptans.

Gas Line Blockages

While gas line leaks are notably more common, gas line blockages can and do occur. Underground gas lines can be encroached upon by fast-growing tree roots and weeds. They can also be blocked by silt, rocks, leaves, and other loose materials. Shifting soils, soil compression, and nearby construction can compress or kink gas lines as well. These types of gas line damage obstruct the flow of natural gas and increase in-line pressure. When obstructions force natural gas toward a gas line’s weakest point, they can also lead to gas leaks and significantly higher energy bills.

Among the most common signs of gas line obstructions are under-performing, gas-fired appliances. If your heater or water heater won’t turn on or if it has a hard time producing sufficient heat, gas line damage may be to blame.

To prevent gas line obstructions, plant responsibly. Keep all shrubs and trees away from underground utilities and report all digging projects before getting started. When clearing gas line obstructions, we use vacuum suction or compressed air to force out or extract all foreign materials.

The Presence of Copper Gas Lines

Even when copper gas lines appear perfectly intact, you should have them inspected and replaced right away. The presence of copper is always a serious gas line issue. Copper creates sulfites that invariably lead to gas line blockages. Copper is also an excellent energy conductor and, thus, an unsuitable material for gas lines.

Visible Cracking on Exposed Sections of Your Gas Lines

Any visible changes in your gas line’s structural integrity should be reported to a licensed plumbing company. Natural corrosion and other wear can weaken pipe materials and create tiny openings for gas to escape. If you suspect a natural gas leak in any exposed area, simply rub a small amount of dish soap onto the pipe’s surface. If the soap bubbles and foams, you need gas line repairs. You should turn the gas supply valve off and schedule service.

Even when no active gas leaks exist, it’s still important to have visibly worn and damaged pipe sections replaced.

Annual Gas Line Inspection and Maintenance Services

The most effective way to ensure that worn gas line valves are replaced before they cause serious problems is by having your gas line inspected and maintained at least once annually. You can schedule a gas line inspection as a separate service, or you can combine it with your yearly, whole-house plumbing inspection. These services give our team the chance to spot and resolve small and developing issues early on.

During whole-house plumbing inspections, we check for natural gas leaks, water supply line leaks, wastewater pipe problems, radon leaks, and more. To compare, separate gas line inspections verify the integrity of all gas supply pipes, valves, connections, and connected appliances. Although gas lines can last up to five decades, regular inspections become increasingly important after just 20 to 30 years of service.

Take Good Care of Your Gas-Fired Appliances

Among the more common sites of gas line leaks are appliance connections. If you smell mercaptan in your home, your furnace or water heater could have a faulty pilot light, a blocked air intake valve, or other issues that are preventing gas from fully burning. Stay up to date with all manufacturer-recommended maintenance for each gas-fired appliance type and have these units replaced toward the ends of their lifespans and before they fail outright.

How to Practice Safe Digging, Planting, and Landscape Management in Harrisburg

In Harrisburg, homeowners are required to call 8-1-1 at least three days before starting digging projects. These calls trigger automatic alerts to all relevant utility companies, and utility service providers have the chance to mark their utility lines. Reporting digging projects in a timely fashion greatly reduces the risk of potentially fatal digging accidents and serious property damage.

It’s also important to call 8-1-1 and report digging before stump grinding. Any project that disturbs topsoil at a significant depth merits this safety precaution.

The City of Harrisburg offers multiple tree-trimming and landscape management strategies for preventing the encroachment of utility lines. Among these are identifying utility line locations before planting, planting trees at least 10 to 15 feet away from existing underground features, and reporting multi-property trees like gargantuan elm with massive and deep-running root systems.

Signs Your Gas Line Needs Replaced

It’s best to replace your gas line before it reaches its 50-year mark. You can get updates on your gas line’s most current condition during annual inspection and maintenance services. In between these visits, be on the lookout for:

  • Visible rust or other corrosion
  • Cracks and other structural deformations
  • Kinked or compressed areas
  • Materials or features that aren’t code-compliant

It may even be necessary to replace your gas line before it sustains substantial wear or other damage. For instance, you might need a new one or significant gas line refinements if adding larger or additional gas-fired appliances to your home.

We’ve been proudly serving Harrisburg, PA since 1998. Homeowners can count on us for top-notch heating, cooling, plumbing, and electrical services. We also provide HVAC air duct cleaning, drain cleaning, and indoor air quality solutions. If you need assistance with gas leak detection or residential gas line replacement or repairs, get in touch with Ready & Able Plumbing, Heating & Air today!

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